“If anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am not drinking any f**king merlot...”
Sideways is a 2004 American comedy-drama film directed by Alexander Payne and written by Jim Taylor and Payne. A film adaptation of Rex Pickett's 2004 novel of the same name, Sideways follows two men in their forties, Miles Raymond (Paul Giamatti), a depressed teacher and unsuccessful writer, and Jack Cole (Thomas Haden Church), a past-his-prime actor, who take a week-long road trip to Santa Barbara County wine country to celebrate Jack's upcoming wedding. Sandra Oh and Virginia Madsen also star as women they encounter during their trip.
Miles has a distinct hatred of the beloved Bordelaise grape, Merlot, giving us the iconic line above. Instead, he has a penchant for Pinot Noir, lamenting
“Oh, its flavours, they're just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and ancient on the planet."
A study by Steven Cuellar, an economics professor at Sonoma State University, found that Merlot sales in the United States declined by 2% in the two years following the release of Sideways. The study also found that the decline in Merlot sales was not offset by an increase in sales of other red wine varieties.
The decline in Merlot sales following the release of Sideways has been dubbed the "Sideways Effect." The Sideways Effect is a reminder of the power of movies to influence public opinion and behaviour. It also highlights the importance of winemakers and retailers being aware of the potential impact of popular culture on their businesses.
In recent years, Merlot sales in the United States have begun to recover. However, it is unclear whether the Sideways Effect has had a lasting impact on the popularity of Merlot wine. It is possible that the decline in Merlot sales was simply a temporary blip, or it is possible that the Sideways Effect has permanently damaged the reputation of Merlot wine in the United States. Only time will tell.
Cuellar also found that Pinot Noir sales over the same time period in the States increased by 17% following the film’s release. Nowadays, Pinot Noir sales in the United States have levelled off. However, it is clear that the Sideways Effect had a lasting impact on the popularity of Pinot Noir wine in the United States. Pinot Noir is now one of the most popular red wine varieties in the country, and it is likely that this trend will continue in the years to come.