Posts Filed Under wine publications
Merlot: “Stop picking on me, beeeeaaaatches!”
It’s been nearly fifteen years since a flippant diatribe that disparagingly mentions Merlot came from the mouth of Miles, the main protagonist in the film Sideways (based on the book of the same title by Rex Pickett).
That off-hand and NSFW comment had the unfortunate – and lasting – side-effect of sending U.S. Merlot sales into the toilet; so much so that I had been told over the years by many PR, marketing, and winemaking professionals that they either stopped putting the word Merlot on their labels (or at least considered it).
But a funny thing happened roughly ten years after Sideways was released in theaters: consumers seemed to stop caring, and instead started to enjoy the fact that Merlot represented one of the best red wine bargains available. Of course, that didn’t stop the media at large from being late to the reporting party when it came to the “Sideways effect.” But whatever.
I mention this brief Merlot sales history lesson because for the past few years October has been declared the #MerlotMe month, in an attempt to bring renewed interest in the much maligned Merlot, and my friend Michael Cervin has quoted me in an article he recently penned for IntoWine.com that takes a closer look as all of the above, and whether or not f–king Merlot even needs its own f–king month. In that article, I basically state that “The Sideways effect has never been as outdated as it is at this moment.”
Look, here’s the scenario with Merlot, people: You can find better (i.e., cleaner, fault-free, varietally-correct, tasty) Merlot at every price point now, and in some cases (particularly in South America) at prices that have better quality-to-price ratios than ever before. While you have to pay larger bucks for the transcendent stuff (Michael rightly suggests La Jota Vineyard Co.’s Merlot as an example), you can still find excellent incarnations in the $30-ish range (another of Michael’s picks, L’Ecole No. 41 Estate Merlot, fits that bill, and makes a good argument for considering Merlot as Washington state’s second best red fine wine grape after Syrah). Even the last five years have seen better Merlot samples cross my critic-lips than ever before.
In other words, despite the temporary corrections afforded by the Sideways effect, Merlot is now exactly like every other f–king fine wine grape in the world.
Merlot is no longer an exception, and it’s high time we stopped acting like it is.
My friend, fellow wine competition judge, and colleague (sorry, bro!) Michael Cervin recently asked me to offer up a comment or two (I agreed to do so on the record) for a piece he was writing for The Tasting Panel magazine, focusing on how (or if) political leanings impacted the wine business.
Michael published a screenshot of his interesting and well-written piece, which includes quotes from other people that I know and respect in the wine industry, and so I am also including it here (above) under the assumption that it’s okay to share.
I am quoted in the article as basically saying that I don’t think about anyone’s politics when it comes to wine, and that I happen to fine wine-industry-types among the more level-headed and reasonable folk when it comes to debating politics in a civil manner. Reflecting back on it, this isn’t entirely accurate, so I felt that I should include a clarification (or two, or three, knowing me), because, well, we live in some heated times when it comes to all of this political sh*t…
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The latest article in my storytelling Monferrato journey is now available over at MyNameIsBarbera.com, and in it we take a deeper dive directly into the terroir (and I mean down to the dirt level!) of the venerable Nizza DOCG.
Those of you who have been following along with my Northern Italian antics might recall that we already compared Nizza Barbera wines to James Bond, and I need to warn you that I inject that comparison with a healthy dose of prose steroids in this most recent piece. You have been warned.
What I didn’t have opportunity to dig into during the penning of this article was the specifics of my personal experience with older Nizza wines, which came via the excellent talents (and, thankfully, well-stocked wine library) of the venerable Tenuta Olim Bauda. I close with a handful of pics from my 2016 visit to that beautiful estate, ostensibly to increase whatever jealous rage I’ve already induced by mentioning the library tasting (warning, cute winery-dog-eating-grapes included)…
image: TMRW Engine
So much of the material upon which 1WD was built consists, essentially, of opinion pieces (in fact, four or five years ago I sat on a panel focused specifically on opinion writing alongside Lettie Teague and Jon Bonne, about which I imagine both of whom are still scratching their heads).
But over the years, I’ve tempered (well… by my standards, anyway) the opinion-heavy pieces here in favor of conclusions that can be drawn from data. The older that I get, the more I want to see opinion bolstered by something other than the biased, fallible memories of people’s experiences (including my own).
Which is why I get royally pissed at the the wine world’s penchant for defaulting to the data-devoid opinions of entrenched personalities, particularly when it comes to denying the return on investment (ROI from here on out) of wine online (usually with the concept of social media directly in the cross-hairs).
While it seems common sense that their must be at least some ROI for wine brands in talking directly with their consumers (which is part and parcel of what social media online can catalyze), remember that data trump opinions, even when those opinions align perfectly with common sense.
Fortunately, the wine world now has some compelling data that demonstrate a plausible link between online social interactions and ROI. Yes, in terms of real people actually spending real money on wine…
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