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The Power of Popular Culture!
Can a Grape File a Defamation Lawsuit?

With one, fateful, short, now immortal rant from the movie Sideways — "If anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving. I am not drinking any f------g Merlot!" — an actor, speaking lines he didn't write, took one America's most popular grape varietals from a staple to an outcast.

Serious wine people have been down on Merlot for years. And, in many cases, they have a point, since much of it has it has been over-cropped, over-manipulated, over-oaked and generally turned into the gooey queen of the grocery aisle. Unfortunately, Merlot is still one of the noble grapes of Bordeaux and there are plenty of great ones out there. The "mark of Miles" has lent a stigma of "uncool" to Merlot that will take years to undo. The saddest and most ironic part of the entire rant is that Miles' prized bottle of 1961 Cheval Blanc, that he consumes from a paper cup at the end of the movie, is actually a Merlot - Cabernet Franc blend. I guess continuity didn't check that one....

I ran the numbers, and while I am sure that my results are way beyond the national averages, they are real and they are dramatic. I compared calendar 2004, the year before Sideways' Oscar nominations to calendar 2006, the year that followed all the hype.

In 2004 Merlot represented 8.2 percent of our total sales. In 2006, sales of Merlot had declined 28.84 percent in dollar volume from 2004 and had fallen to 4.15 percent of our total sales.

Pinot Noir, on the other hand, only represented 2.05 percent of our total sales in 2004. By 2006 it had grown 252 percent on dollar volume and represented 4.82 percent of our sales volume.

Factor in the fact that we moved to our new location in 2005, tripling our square footage and substantially increasing our total dollar volume, it looks even worse! While dollar volume increased in in every other wine category, Merlot dollar volume actually fell almost 29 percent.

Folks … Merlot is not evil. I know that you may be embarrassed to order it in a restaurant, but you can still enjoy it in the privacy of your own home. I know you may be afraid of the children blurting out "Mommy and Daddy drink Merlot!" in front of company, but just be discreet and it will be OK....