Sales of Merlot in the US are on the rise again – suggesting that the ‘Sideways effect’ may have run its course.
Demand for Merlot plummeted after a character in hit film Sideways spurned the variety in favour of Pinot Noir, while sales of Pinot rocketed.
Now Merlot is recovering, with sales up to December 2007 of domestically produced Merlots in the US increasing 6% in value, according to IRI data.
The surge was led by category leader Blackstone Winery, whose Merlot – the best-selling domestic red wine in the US – leapt 11.6%.
Blackstone winemaker Gary Sitton attributed the rise to Merlot’s inherently fruity character and soft tannins. ‘American wine drinkers may be fickle in the short term,’ he said. ‘But eventually they come home to what tastes good to them, and what has tasted good to them for a long time is Merlot.’
Despite Pinot Noir’s huge recent growth in popularity, sales of the variety are less than half those of Merlot. Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot together account for 45% of US wine sales.
And Sitton believes the grape’s recovery is set to continue with the launch of wines from the 2006 harvest, which he described as ‘a strong vintage’ for Merlot.