Merlot grows in the Elqui valley in Chile / Getty
For years, people have either loved to love or loved to hate Merlot. Those in the former camp praise its soft fruit flavors and expressive nature. To others, however, Merlot is a “middle of the road” wine: a dinner party variety that’s easy-drinking but nothing to write home about.
Some of the latter group might have been influenced by what’s called the Sideways effect. In a scene from the Academy Award-winning 2004 film starring Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church and a host of other Hollywood stars, Giamatti’s character expresses his disdain for Merlot. This declaration actually caused a slight dip in Merlot sales and consumption after the film’s release.
According to a 2009 Journal of Wine Economics report, “The Sideways Effect: A Test for Changes in the Demand for Merlot and Pinot Noir Wines,” the impact was nuanced. “The negative effects of the movie on Merlot were confined mostly to the lower priced segment, under $10 per bottle, while at the higher price points, the movie may have had a positive impact or at least slowed the rate of decline.”