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The Side Effects of 'Sideways'
Loris Scagliarini - April 30, 2005

  Paul Giammatti, Thomas Haden Church and movie director Alexander Payne
  Paul Giammatti, Thomas Haden Church and movie director Alexander Payne on the set of 'Sideways'
  Paul Giammatti and Thomas Haden Church
  Paul Giammatti (Miles) and Thomas Haden Church (Jack) in a scene from the movie
  Paul Giammatti, Thomas Haden Church and movie director Alexander Payne
  Paul Giammatti and co-starring actress Virginia Madsen (Maya) in a scene from the movie
   

Unexpectedly and unpredictably, 'Sideways', the brilliant movie by Alexander Payne, featuring Paul Giammatti and Thomas Haden Church as two wine-loving buddies with very different personalities on a week-long wine-tasting trip through the South California wine country, pushed up Pinot Noir sales and jettisoned those of Merlot, up to a few months ago one of America's most popular varietals of red wine.

It's all in a line halfway through 'Sideways' that the film's main character shows shocking disdain for Merlot.

"If anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving. I'm not drinking any f...... Merlot," the neurotic, Pinot Noir-loving Miles emphatically warns his friend Jack outside a restaurant where the two are to have dinner with two attractive female aquaintances.

The line is perfectly delivered and lingers in the mind of moviegoers who don't know that much about wine. The unexpected effect is that many of these people, who started flocking the wineries and restaurants where the movie was shot, follow Miles' advice and refrain from ordering Merlot. At the same time Pinot Noir is flying off the shelf.

The same thing is also happening at local grocery stores across the United States. The previously beloved Merlot, a drinkable and uncomplicated everyman's red, is left almost untouched, while Pinot Noir keeps needing to be re-stocked.

More than that, the line has become the go-to inside joke among the wine-savvy types.

According to AC Nielsen, sales of Pinot Noir jumped 15 percent in the three months ending January 15. Across the US, retailers and wineries are pushing Pinot Noir with all kinds of 'Sideways' tie-ins, and say that the movie has generated the biggest buzz in the wine industry since a 1991 '60 Minutes' segment touted the health benefits of red wine.

The powerful difference made by this movie shows that the American consumer needed to feel reassured about wine and loose that underlying feeling that one could not drink wine unless he or she was an expert and could sniff and taste all the hidden nuances.

In fact, while  the Miles character is obsessed with wine, celebrating its complexity and romance, puckering and sniffing away that underlying hint of nutty Edan


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