October 9, 2017 – October 2017 marks the fifth year of international celebration of the noble grape, merlot. Why? What does “noble” mean? Lots of questions.
Merlot is one of the five “noble” grapes of Bordeaux, its royal cousins being Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. The “noble” moniker is given to wine grape varietals or types that are widely planted and historic. The most famous wine made with this grape is Chateau Pétrus from the Pomerol region of Bordeaux, a bottle of which will set you back $3,000 or more. So let’s move on to affordable merlot made in America.
Merlot became very popular in the 1990s. For many wine drinkers, it was an alternative to cabernet sauvignon because it was fruity, less tannic and generally regarded as a softer, food friendly wine. Its popularity led to more plantings and more merlot on the market, some of which was not very good. This is the back-story to the famous line in the wine-centric movie “Sideways”. In the movie the character of Miles Raymond, skillfully played by Paul Giamatti, throws a tantrum outside a restaurant where he doesn’t want to be. He angrily declares, “No, if anyone orders merlot, I’m leaving. I am NOT drinking any f****** merlot!”. That line is blamed for merlot sales tanking. The decline had started before the movie was released in October 2004, but from 2005 to 2008, merlot lost about two percent in sales. It is safe to say “Sideways” exacerbated the decline.
The “Sideways” effect was really felt by Pinot Noir, Miles’s favorite libation that he extolled as often as possible in many wine conversations. According to Steven Cuellar, an economics professor at Sonoma State University, sales of pinot noir increased by 16 percent from 2005 to 2008.
If Miles was merlot’s bête noir, social media guru Rick Bakas was its champion when a few years ago he started the idea of dedicating October to merlot. MerlotMe unites passionate wine lovers in a worldwide movement to celebrate this lovely and delicious noble red grape. Millions of wine lovers across the globe will celebrate merlot online during October with hashtag #MerlotMe, and tasting and toasting at events, in wine stores, restaurants and homes.
Last year’s #MerlotMe celebration generated more than 33 million social media impressions and reached a worldwide audience in 32 countries. The 2017 #MerlotMe movement features Merlot-themed events and initiatives online, in homes, in restaurants and at retailers across the US and beyond. Participating wineries, restaurants and retailers will feature #MerlotMe inspired tasting flights, and food bloggers are posting merlot-paired recipes and chatting online.
Merlot is the third leading red wine vinted in California after Cabernet Sauvignon and Red Blends. Approximately 17 million cases were consumed in 2016. So join the discovery and enjoyment of merlot using #merlotme.