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Poor, Poor Merlot

Poor, poor Merlot. What did it do to anybody? It did get in the way of a very funny blockbuster movie from several years back. A few weeks ago I met with a gentleman who works with one of the largest beer and alcohol distributors in the country. I wasn’t meeting with him about filling my cabinet. Although the thought had crossed my mind. I was working on another project.

In our meeting he relived the story of the movie Sideways, which turned part of his business upside down. In the movie, one of my favorite actors, Paul Giamatti, played a character that was a wine critic. His character slandered Merlot and those who drank it. The wine distributor said that after only six months of the movie coming out, Merlot sales were down considerably. In six months it had fallen from one of the top sellers – all because of a movie. Well, not any movie. It did win some academy awards. So, that’s something.

I wish I could say that I know a thing or two about a thing or two, but I drank Merlot and was totally fine drinking it. I had spent many years working on my beer education and appreciation. I hate to admit it, but until a few years ago my wine appreciation was based on a chart that I created on graph paper in my mind. This chart consisted of alcohol content and price. One of these needed to be high and the other needed to be low. I had a system and it was one step beyond a pretty label. Although a clever name could be good for at least one purchase. Clever needs to be rewarded. I have to stand for something.

Around the time Sideways came out, just happened to coincide with a time when I was starting to drink more wine. As I get older, even the best beers seem to take a more direct route to my stomach. This isn’t a problem. The problem is that it stays there. I know, I know, wine has the calories too, but after years of drinking the beer, wine seems like a specially designed diet drink.

Drinking wine also seems more daring – or drinking red wine seems more daring. If a kid knocks over a beer on the nice rug, we can just consider it a cleaning. After all, beer can be used as a shampoo. The red wine spill is not as shampoo friendly. Nobody shampoos with red wine. Possibly, Nero as Rome was burning or Dennis Rodman after a championship win – but that would have been less about hair care and more about debauchery.

There’s are also more options for wine drinkers that go over the edge. A beer drinker going too far may be called a drunk. The same can be said for the wine drinker. But the wine drinker also has the option of “wino” as his nom de plume.

Beer generally has a mug or some kind of thick based glass. This is because the beer drinker has been known to drink enough glasses to eventually bump the glass in a fashion that will knock it over. The tests are in on years of studies in bars and basements with permanent Christmas lights. Wine is consumed from a glass that has a long narrow stem – like one might be drinking from a flower. For those who really like wine, this is much more challenging than drinking from a thick vestibule. Those big dumb beer grabbers called hands will knock down the wine glass in seconds flat. Sometimes I will put the wine in smaller based juice glasses for my beer grabbers to grab, but I like the challenge of drinking from a tippy stemmed flower.

Recently, on an airplane flight I asked the flight attendant for a glass of red wine. I asked what kind of red wine they had. She responded that she was sorry that it was just Merlot. Either she assumed I was conesuir or that I had seen the movie about a conesuir or both. I politely said that Merlot was fine. See, good and kind readers, Merlot was really fine for me. I was not going to have this wine with a meal or think about its finer qualities. I was going to drink it to get a buzz.

The flight attendant returned with my wine in a short plastic cup with no stem – perfect for air travel and to avoid the big dumb beer grabbers knocking it off my tray – just in case the plane starts going sideways. With customers like me, Merlot should be back on the top of the heap again very soon. In fact, I read something at the end of last year that stated the “Sideways Affect” was dead. It may take people just a few more years to stop referring to it as “just Merlot”.

Sadly yours,

Jason Spafford

1 comment

  1. Mary Beth Schirber says:

    Jason, I LOVED your blog on Merlot. You captured all my secret thoughts and now it’s out there. Your humor as usual is very entertaining. I love how you took this subject and took it from all angles. A real genius, I’d say. Bravo!

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