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Bay Vieux Briefs

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Was “Sideways” alone responsible for Pinot’s triumph?

That’s been the conventional wisdom for years. Now, Decanter is reporting on a research paper out of Sonoma State University that crunched the numbers and determined that, yes, “The longstanding belief that the film Sideways sent Pinot Noir sales through the roof was confirmed today.”

Far be it from me to disagree with a team of academicians. But I’ve always been of the opinion that Pinot Noir was going to happen in America anyway, and all that Sideways did was to push the date up. Look at it in perspective. In the 1990s, California Pinot Noir already was looked upon by experts (writers, critics, some sommeliers, restaurateurs and collectors) with interest, even if the results were more often than not disappointing. By the early 2000s, Pinot had fully erupted in the consciousness of millions of wine lovers, as regions like Santa Ynez Valley (now Santa Rita Hills), Santa Lucia Highlands, Sonoma Coast and Anderson Valley joined the ranks of proven Pinot areas like Carneros and Russian River Valley. I wrote my first book, A Wine Journey along the Russian River, prior to Sideways, but in it I had an entire chapter on Pinot Noir and its glories. Pinot was on a sharp growth curve well before Sideways, and it was inevitable it would emerge as a serious rival to Cabernet Sauvignon as California’s top red wine.

Les French Sont Crazee

Earlier this week I wrote about those wacky French neoprohibitionists over at my Wine Enthusiast blog. I thought then that they couldn’t have come up with anything crazier than no more free wine tasting in France, but this morning comes news that they’ve outdone themselves. Decanter is reporting that “A court ruled that print stories on wine must contain health warnings—not wine ads, but journalism about wine.” Yes, you heard it right: print stories about wine must contain health warnings.

WE INTERRUPT THIS BLOG ON WINE TO ADVISE YOU OF THE FOLLOWING: IF YOU DRINK WINE, DO NOT OPERATE HEAVY FARM EQUIPMENT. DO NOT BUNGEE JUMP. RUNNING WITH SCISSORS IS NOT ADVISABLE AFTER CONSUMPTION OF MORE THAN ONE BOTTLE.

This just in:

FOR SALE: 1,000 cases of Palin Syrah, some smoke damage and water stains on labels. Motivated seller. Name your price. Shipping included.

  1. I tend to agree with you about the “Sideways” effect, Steve. It’s not like facts can’t be shifted and molded to meet a specific objective. This said, didn’t Pahlmeyer sales go up after the wine was mentioned in Disclosure (courtesy of the late, great Michael Crichton)???

  2. I’d be interested to see if the Palin Syrah moves the needle for Chile at all in the current wine market. It certainly got enough press over the past couple months.

  3. Steve,

    What do you mean by Pinot Noir “was going to happen”? The recognition that it is a wine worthy of adulation? Quality Pinot from North America? I do not think that Pinot Noir would be enjoying the spotlight it does today had it not been for the free PR it got from the movie Sideways, just as Merlot would not have suffered the downward spiral of public opinion for the same reason.

    I don’t think you can not underestimate the power and influence of popular media in shaping our perceptions and starting trends, or killing them for that matter. After all it was able to do what your book “A Wine Journey along the Russian River” was not and that is to vault Pinot to a top of mind varietal that even Joe the plumber was interested in ditching Merlot for. Now I am not arguing that Pinot Noir and your book do not deserve the recognition and success they received, but what I am doing is asking myself if it would have its current standing, as a beloved wine of the masses, if it was not for the free PR of Niles.

    Cheers and let’s all raise a glass of Pinot to that!

    ChrisO

  4. Lisa Mattson says:

    I’m laughing out loud. You made my night. My husband and I just finished watching the Palin Prank video on YouTube. Wasn’t there some crazy ban in France on online advertising of alcoholic beverages last summer too? They wonder why consumption numbers are down. Scary what the government in England is considering too. Off-licenses could be treated like sex shops!!! No ads or displays in the windows — just black blinds hiding the taboo products within …

  5. To all who commented: Thanks very much. I’ve been on the road since Thursday so I got a little behind in keeping up with my blog.

  6. Les French Sont Crazee…seriously, do you honestly think those that actually need a warning about wine, really read the print stories? What a waste of energy.

  7. WAD, you’re right. I don’t think people who need a warning read wine articles. Nor do I think that those who read wine articles need a warning!

  8. would like to travel and sample some wine one day

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