Mar 02 2009

Merlot Even Miles Wouldn’t Malign

By Brett Ashley McKenzie

Jack: If they want to drink Merlot, we’re drinking Merlot.
Miles: No, if anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving.

Ah, Miles. The visceral hatred of Merlot espoused by the neurotic protagonist in “Sideways” effectively poisoned the public against the medium-bodied red wine, without the film giving a concrete explanation as to why. In 2005, following the movie’s critical acclaim, sales of Merlot in the U.S. dropped and sales of Miles’ beloved Pinot Noir shot up.

Perhaps Miles detested the perceived ease associated with growing Merlot, the impression that it can grow just about anywhere, from France to California to Canada to Slovenia to Long Island. Perhaps he viewed its propensity for being blended as a weakness.

Or perhaps Miles simply wrote off Merlot before he found a true contender.

At a private event at Just Grapes last Wednesday, we poured the 2005 Santa Ema Reserve Merlot, Maipo, Chile as the first of three reds. You could see the skepticism in the eyes of some of the tasters. One man covered his glass and said simply, “Let me know when we get to the Cabernet.”

But those who tasted the Santa Ema Merlot were treated to a rarity: 100% Merlot. Merlot is often blended, so pure, unblended Merlot was something that few (if any) in the room had tasted. Those who gave it a chance were pleasantly surprised. Notes of chocolate, coffee, plum and blackberry interwoven with toffee.

“I don’t get why he didn’t like it,” I overheard one person tell another.
“Who?” asked the second gentleman.
“The guy in ‘Sideways’ just hated Merlot.” He nodded toward his glass. “This is actually really nice.”

Perhaps it is because Miles sees himself as a difficult, complex man surrounded by simpler beings, like his best friend Jack. Perhaps it is because Merlots are so often described as soft and delicate, and Miles’ personality is anything but. However those terms “soft” and “delicate” could be accurately used to characterize Maya, the woman he falls so effortlessly in love with. If given the chance, and the proper Merlot, perhaps Miles could change his mind.

Have you given yourself the chance to fall for Merlot?

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