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Sideways do-over????

if you could insert two varietals into the movie sideways in order to change the public perception as much as by pinot noir (positive) and merlot (negative), what would they be?


riesling (positive)

i'm struggling to find a negative -

what are yours?

the one caveat - nothing that obscure such as fromenteau or dornfelder!!

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  1. Wasn't he pretty positive on Riesling in the movie? I remember it from the book, but I could swear that line is in the movie as well.

    I don't want to make anything too positive. Enough people already know about the Loire and Beaujolais to start making my values not so big of values!

    1. Well, IF you're going to do Riesling, don't you sort of HAVE to play Riesling off of Chardonnay?

      6 Replies
      1. re: zin1953

        I concur, Chardonnay gets my vote. There aren't enough people in the masses who have crossed the California - Burgundy bridge; they fall off somewhere between 'graduating' to Sauvignon Blanc and 'discovering' Rose and seem to stay stuck there forever.

        1. re: aperitif

          I can sort of see a Miles-type character saying,
          "I will not drink any more overoaked, over-ripe Chardonnays! I will not be Yellow Tail-ed! Give me Burgundy, give me elegance and earth and minerality and restraint and beauty -- but if I have to drink another Chardonnay with fake butter, smoky oak and canned pineapple fruit, I'm gonna die!"

          1. re: maria lorraine

            sounds like you should write the screenplay, maria! very funny... and spot on...

            1. re: Pigloader

              I wouldn't mind a bit. I was trying to adopt Miles's overblown style of speech, and I distinctly remember the best moment of the movie (and the best lit) when Miles describes why he loves Pinot Noir to Virginia Madsen.

              1. re: maria lorraine

                Doesn't he already mention something about too much malolactic in the beginning of the movie?

      2. zinfandel (+) and cabernet (-)

        1 Reply
        1. re: pinotho

          How about setting the re-make in the Barossa and Eden Valleys and creating a character who despises fruit-forward Shiraz and has an affinity for small production riesling and obscure Aussie pinot noir?

          Or set it in Austria and write a character who has great fondness for wines made from native grapes like Zweigelt and Gruner Veltliner and resents the influx of 'foreign' grapes like pinot noir, chardonnay, and cabernet franc?

          You could have an Italian version with a character who hates 'Super-Tuscans' coveted by wealthy, tasteless Americans; the character could argue passionately for drinking only wines made from indigenous Italian grape varietals.

          I like the idea of a German setting with a character who hates that his country is predominately known for riesling and who seeks out German-produced red wines...pinot noir, gamay, etc...

          The possibilities are endless. How about a character who LOVES merlot (i.e. merlot dominated Bordeaux blends) and hates that a stupid movie like Sideways gave his favourite grape a bad reputation? He could make fun of the fact that many popular California pinot noirs have become high-test alcoholic fruit-bombs.

        2. Definitely Chardonnay (-)

          1. Large industrial (-)

            Small farmer (+)

            Mis en Bouteille dans nos Caves (-)

            Mis en Bouteille a la Propriete (+)

            6 Replies
            1. re: Chinon00

              Constellation Brands vs 1000 case producer!

                1. re: bowmore36

                  Not quite Monodovino...

                  I like Vinquire and and Chinon's ideas. I am all for the little guy!


                    1. re: bowmore36

                      Not exactly. Mondovino was about the Parkerization of wines and how critics impact development. I want to see David vs. Goliath ;-)

                      1. re: Vinquire

                        i wasn't suggesting an exact match....

                  1. You're saying that you want a mad infatuation with riesling to destroy your ability to find restrained, food-friendly American rieslings? The tanked US Dollar is the only reason I'm not worried about losing tasty, low-end burgundies to the "international style". On the other hand, I've heard that good cab-merlot blends are getting easier to find over there, so I guess there was some positive outcome of that hype.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: tmso

                      were we talking about american rieslings? 'Cause I'd find it hard not to then pit the positive for German Riesling against the negative for American riesling.

                      1. re: Pigloader

                        I'm not sure we're understanding each other. My view (admittedly from afar) is that the Sideways-related hype of pinot noir wreaked havoc on American production of this varietal -- it used to be that you had some Bigger Softer Better style wines and quite a number of well made wines whose style matches the varietal, and now there's pinot noir everywhere, and it's rapidly turning into stuff that doesn't go with food.

                        American rieslings are, as far as I'm aware, a mixed bag, similar to pinot noir before it got hyped, and it's relatively easy to find them made in a style similar to their German cousins. Exchange rates being what they are, do you really want to do to American riesling what was done to American pinot noir?

                        1. re: tmso

                          The hype of Sideways just diverted the mass-production capabilities of the big American houses from merlot to pinot. There is so much more crap pinot on the market now than ever before.

                          But I do think any attention on wine in general is good, because the exposure and the hype gets people to try wine for the first time. Eventually, most people figure out that there's more to life than the newest Don Sebastiani or Grateful Palate brand to hit the supermarket shelves with a pretty label.

                          1. re: orlwine

                            Couldn't agree more orlwine. Attention to the wine market is generally a good thing. Have you all seen Bottleshock!! I just loved it!



                          2. re: tmso

                            I wholeheartedly agree with the assessment of the regrettable effect that that movie had on both Pinot and Merlot. I was actually just being snide about American riesling... the truth is that before the movie, there WAS a fair amount of well made domestic pinot. Still is, but it's been overwhelmed by a glut of poorly made crap, as I think you were also saying. I can't say that we're starting with the same crop of good wines with American riesling. That's all.

                            The funniest part about that movie, IMHO, is the fact that his prize bottle of Cheval Blanc... St. Emilion. I wonder if the writers did that on purpose... the guy who can't stand merlot drinking just that at the culmination of the movie.

                        1. re: TonyO

                          i think the "americentric" problem is well documented...

                          1. re: bowmore36

                            Just don't make the movie in the SYV again, please!!

                            Take it to another country, far far away!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                            1. re: bowmore36

                              I beg to differ...............U S A !

                              1. re: TonyO

                                California makes the BEST California wines in world!

                                But France makes the best FRENCH wines in the world . . .

                                Spain? They make the best SPANISH wines in the world!

                                Oregon? No place makes Oregon wines as good as Oregon does . . .

                                and so on and so on and so on and . . . and . . . and . . . .

                          2. For me, the surge in Pinot drinking meant that the viewers -- for the most part -- didn't understand "the words" of the people speaking in the movie.

                            What Miles describes is a very Don Quixote or Holy Grail kind of quest, to find the perfect bottle of wine made from one of the most impossible grapes. For people like Miles, it is the search that is the point -- and even if you ever found the right one, it is unlikely you'll ever get another bottle of it.

                            The whole Point is that he likes tasting Pinot Noir *because* it is just so difficult to get it right, *because* you can't just run down and buy a bottle of X and have it be "just so", *because* he is living ...well let's just say it wouldn't have been inappropriate to have Ed Ames crank out "The Impossible Dream" while he was talking about Pinot.

                            So naturally the public runs out and buys all they can get, having only absorbed the general notion that the wine wierdo likes expensive Pinot and hates Merlot.

                            I hate Merlot too, unless it is just the right bottle of good french stuff. Merlot was supposed to be a blending wine, not something you drink as cheap stuff straight. ...

                            So I'll weigh in with the people who refuse to nominate a "positive" on the grounds that I don't want any poor decent varietal out there to be so misunderstood, but I think they got Merlot just right on the nail. Mediocre merlot is the pits, whereas mediocre sangiovese is just fine.

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: fussycouple

                              I totally agree! I always have loved Pinot Noir, that is why I loved "Sideways". If you find a great one there's nothing else like it, but there are many horrible ones out there (now even more so)... so it can be "the thrill of the chase" to find a good bottle to some degree. I like WA Merlots for some reason, not a big fan of them otherwise, I think they are best in a blend, too...

                              To answer the original question, I would say + Rhone blends, - Bordeaux (reds).

                              1. re: fussycouple

                                >>> Merlot was supposed to be a blending wine, not something you drink as cheap stuff straight. ... <<<

                                Oh, nonsense!

                                One might as well say that Cabernet Sauvignon "was supposed to be" a blending grape. After all:

                                -- there's more MERLOT planted in Bordeaux than there is Cabernet Sauvignon;
                                -- EVERY chateau uses some Merlot in making their red wines, while NOT every chateau uses Cabernet Sauvignon;
                                -- there is at least one top-quality (deservedly famous) 100 percent Merlot wine produced within the Bordeaux region, while no classified growth is 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon;

                                Etc., etc., etc.

                                There are great Merlots produced in Bordeaux, in California, in Washington State and elsewhere around the planet.

                                OTOH, if you want to focus on the word "cheap," I'll happily agree there is NEVER any excuse for cheap wine, which is a) a very different thing, and b) quite different from "inexpensive" wine, for which there is every reason to celebrate. But just as I see no reason to put of with "cheap" wine, neither do I see any reason whatsoever to have to put up with mediocrity -- in a Merlot, in a Sangiovese, in a Cabernet, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, or Chenin Blanc -- ANY grape variety!


                                1. re: zin1953

                                  Ok, Jason, I am willing to stand corrected by thee.

                                  In the 60s I was taught that Merlot is a wine that is primarily a blending wine, not something you want to drink a pure bottle of. This still tends to remain true, for me, and the "merlot scene" in Sideways remains something I identified with immediately.

                                  You said: "-- there's more MERLOT planted in Bordeaux than there is Cabernet Sauvignon;
                                  -- EVERY chateau uses some Merlot in making their red wines, while NOT every chateau uses Cabernet Sauvignon;
                                  -- there is at least one top-quality (deservedly famous) 100 percent Merlot wine produced within the Bordeaux region, while no classified growth is 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon;"

                                  I said, "unless it is just the right bottle of good french stuff". I still haven't had anyone serve me 100% merlot from anywhere *but* burgandy that I thought was worth the price point.

                                  While I love good bordeaux I find that I prefer inexpensive burgandy, inexpensive sangiovese, and several other inexpensive wines to inexpensive bordeaux, for the most part, with a few notable exceptions...

                                  And I still can't stand inexpensive 100% merlot, I'd probably rather skip wine that night if it is the only choice. Never had one that I couldn't have had something twice as good at the same price point.

                                  Maybe I've been affected by the same people who claim that Yellowtail is the best Chardonnay, that their Merlot is the best red they've ever had, and wouldn't I like a nice glass of this stunning White Zin before dinner, and who regale me at holiday dinners with "2-buck chuck won "best wine" at the international wine judging, how can you spend $20 on a bottle of wine, I don't know what you were thinking..." After times like that, I get more "knee-jerk" reactions and my left eye starts to twitch a bit...

                                  1. re: fussycouple

                                    <<I still haven't had anyone serve me 100% merlot from anywhere *but* burgandy that I thought was worth the price point.>>
                                    ummm... they don't grow merlot in Burgundy. reinforcing my earlier point that somehow ended up below this post.

                                    1. re: fussycouple

                                      A few factual corrections, and some random thoughts . . .

                                      1) It's "BurgUndy," not "BurgAndy."

                                      >>> I still haven't had anyone serve me 100% merlot from anywhere *but* burgandy that I thought was worth the price point. <<<

                                      2) French Burgundy -- as opposed to the semi-generic American wine of the same name* -- is produced, in most cases, from 100 percent Pinot Noir (red wines), or 100 percent Chardonnay. While there are a small number of exceptions to this "100 percent" rule, a) they account for only a tiny fraction of the total amount of wine produced; and b) nowhere within the Burgundy region is the planting of Merlot permitted.

                                      3) Charles Shaw (aka "Two-Buck Chuck," "2BC," etc.) did NOT win "Best Wine" at an International Competition: a) the competition was the 2007 California State Fair, and only wines made in California may enter; b) the awards it DID receive was a double gold medal, with accolades of "Best of California" and "Best of Class" -- but it did not win "Best of Show"; c) the wine entered was NOT [I am willing to bet, but admittedly cannot prove] the same 2BC as sold at Trader Joe's -- which, if true, would not be the first time Fred Franzia "pulled a fast one" ('nuf said).

                                      4) The whole "joke" of the movie Sideways is that Miles is saving this great bottle -- and ends of savoring/loving a bottle of Bordeaux (Château Cheval Blanc, one of only two estates classified as a Premier Grand Cru Classé "A" de Saint-Émilion) that is comprised of two-thirds MERLOT and one-third Cabernet Franc . . . not a Pinot Noir grape in sight!

                                      >>> In the 60s I was taught that Merlot is a wine that is primarily a blending wine, not something you want to drink a pure bottle of <<<

                                      5) Louis M. Martini produced the first varietally-labeled Merlot in the state of California, the n.v. Lot 68-70 "Edge Hill Selection" (a blend of wines from 1968 and 1970). Six months or so after that, Sterling Vineyards released the first vintage-dated Merlot, their 1969 Napa Valley Merlot. It is extremely rare that a "new" grape is "discovered. In this case, of course, Merlot wasn't new and it wasn't discovered, but it was new to American consumers. Both wineries, in an attempt to explain what Merlot was to the public, said that "Merlot was a grape used in Bordeaux, where it was often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to round it out and soften it, as Merlot has less tannin than Cabernet Sauvignon and is more drinkable at an earlier date." (OK, not a direct quote, but darned close -- I used to work for Louis Martini.) That is FACTUALLY CORRECT, but it did -- unfortunately -- "translate" incorrectly to Merlot being a "blending" grape (i.e.: inferior to Cabernet Sauvignon). Again, there's more Merlot in Bordeaux than Cabernet, so one might say that Cabernet is a blending grape, but since Americans were familiar with Cabernet (and Merlot was unknown), the die was cast: Merlot is a(n inferior) blending grape. Not true, but there you go.

                                      6) Very few California Cabernets, proportional to the total number of different varietally-labeled Cabernet Sauvignon wines produced in the State, are made from 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. As with the wines of Bordeaux, most have at least some Merlot and/or other grape varieties in the wine. Conversely, very few California Merlots, proportional to the total number of different varietally-labeled Merlot wines produced in the State, are made from 100 percent Merlot grapes. As with the wines of Bordeaux, most have at least some Cabernet Sauvignon and/or other grape varieties in the wine. AND, this is true REGARDLESS of a wine's retail price point (i.e.: this holds true of wines which retail for $5, $25, $50, and over $100). This is also true, BTW, of wines produced in Washington State and elsewhere around the world.

                                      >>> While I love good bordeaux I find that I prefer inexpensive burgandy [sic], inexpensive sangiovese, and several other inexpensive wines to inexpensive bordeaux, for the most part, with a few notable exceptions... <<<

                                      7) Keep in mind that many inexpensive Bordeaux are primarily Cabernet Sauvignon.

                                      >>> And I still can't stand inexpensive 100% merlot . . . <<<

                                      8) Not at all surprising, and there are valid reasons for this! In 2007, there were 74,643 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon planted in California bearing fruit. They yielded a total of 425,172.3 tons of grapes. In contrast, the 48,648 acres of Merlot in production in the state bore 304,078.0 tons of fruit. Do the math: the average acre of Cabernet Sauvignon yielded 5.69 tons, while Merlot averaged 6.25 tons per acre! Considering this is an average, this is a HUGE difference! The flavor, concentration, and character IS often lacking in California Merlot. thus, in the -- say -- "under $10" category, your odds of finding a good bottle of Cabernet (or even Pinot Noir) are far greater than finding a good bottle of Merlot. This, of course, changes dramatically when dealing with wines in the $25+ range from Napa or Sonoma Counties, for example.

                                      Overall, I think you're better off seeking Merlot from Washington State than California, but I will happily suggest several Merlots to you if you provide me with a price point.


                                      * The semi-generic American designation "Burgundy," as permitted by the Federal government, tells you nothing about what grapes are in the wine, what style the wine might be in, or character the wine might have.

                                      1. re: zin1953

                                        You forgot ->

                                        9) An inexpensive Burgundy is almost as hard to find as a good domestic Merlot.

                                        I will say, I agree with the proposition that a "garden variety" $10-15 sangiovese will generally be better than a "garden variety" $10-15 merlot these days. Though I'm still not sure what to make of the statement "I still haven't had anyone serve me 100% merlot from anywhere *but* burgandy that I thought was worth the price point."

                                        1. re: Frodnesor

                                          Mea culpa. What a time for a "mis-type". Of course I meant to write "100% merlot from anywhere *but* bordeaux". Blerg and blush....


                                          Personally I love inexpensive burGUNdy (grins, yes I meant Pinot Noir Burgundy this time. If it says "red bourgogne" and it costs less than $40 I call that inexpensive burgundy. It's what good 'ole Mr. Gallo was trying to imitate when they marketed "hearty burgundy". In fact, for real burgundy, I typically prefer "the cheap stuff" to many if not most of the real expensive more "elegant" burgundies.

                                          Yes, Frodnesor, you are right on with your $10-15 price range there, btw.

                                          And Jason, I wasn't *about* try correcting the people at dinner regarding the 2-buck chuck, I should perhaps have clarified the errors I was relating, but it still sets my teeth on edge to think about that dinner.

                                          And Jason, the history lesson is great, it's always nice to hear from you. I confess that I have this tendency to cut and paste stuff you write and email it to a few folks who I think will appreciate it...

                                  2. re: fussycouple

                                    i am always amazed at the presumptions people feel entitled to make after watching this movie. First off-- what Jason said. Secondly, as I noted in my earlier post--his "holy grail" at the end of the movie, which he enjoys in such cathartic fashion at the fast food place, is a MERLOT DOMINATED WINE!!!

                                    1. re: fussycouple

                                      ""Mediocre merlot is the pits, whereas mediocre sangiovese is just fine."""

                                      mediocre is mediocre....

                                      i think fsome got bit by the sideways bug and don't know it

                                      1. re: bowmore36

                                        I stand by my original statement.

                                        If I have to say "I don't find it hard to buy high volume, mass-produced, inexpensive sangiovese for a daily / weekly wine that I enjoy, whereas you couldn't *give* me high volume, mass-produced, inexpensive merlot" and that honestly I haven't found one of these that I consider to even be *drinkable*" in order to be understood, then I will.

                                    2. California cabernet (negative) Granted there are lots of good ones and I still drink my fair share, but the QPR for the group as a whole is absolutely terrible.

                                      Loire chenin blanc (positive) I'm now convinced it's the most versatile grape in the world.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: mengathon

                                        Boy oh boy, I'm with you there. Loire Chenins are stunning. I feel like an idiot for not buying more this summer when they are perfectly delightful summer wines. I better get cranking in the next month while the weather is still warm...

                                        1. re: maria lorraine

                                          it's pretty darn delicious out of S. Africa, too...

                                      2. On a somewhat related side topic, think Christian Moueix would like a do-over as well? From the IMDB page about 'Sideways' trivia:

                                        "According to W. Blake Gray of the San Francisco Chronicle, the producers had originally wanted to use a bottle of Petrus as the treasured wine gathering dust in Miles' apartment. But Christian Moueix, the chateau's owner, read the script and decided to pass. So, instead it was a bottle of 1961 Cheval Blanc."

                                        Not like he really needs the popularity bump, but who wouldn't like to have their wine immortalized in reverent tones as a wine aficionado's Holy Grail?

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: Eugene Park

                                          I didn't know that.

                                          That's even funnier, as Petrus is almost 100% merlot.

                                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                                            I don't know if anyone on here knows, but is it clear that the filmmakers of Sideways were aware that Miles' treasured Cheval Blanc was mostly Merlot? I.E., is the "joke" Miles knowing less than he thinks, or that the filmmakers knew MUCH less than someone who ought to be writing a wine movie? Anyone who has purchased even an elementary wine book would know that information, or at least would think, in the case of a Bordeaux, to look it up.

                                            1. re: jonasblank

                                              Given that it was a movie about wine, and that Cheval-Blanc is one of the dozen or so most famous wines in the world, I find it hard to believe that it was an oversight.

                                              I always thought it was more of a wink and a nod to the serious wine geeks who knew Cheval-Blanc was merlot. As for Miles, I had assumed that he was referring to California merlot.

                                              1. re: jonasblank

                                                1) The writer of the screenplay is a serious wine geek.

                                                2) Château Cheval Blanc is approximately 66% Cab Franc, 34% Merlot. Château Pétrus WAS the joke; Cheval Blanc was a poor substitute.

                                                1. re: zin1953

                                                  I haven't seen the movie in sometime, but in the book he also mocks Cabernet Franc. So in the book Petrus and Cheval Blanc would both be funny wines to use. I can't remember if the bit about Cab Franc is in the movie though.

                                          2. You know, the longer this thread stays current, the more I'm thinking that I'd re-do "Sideways" as a pro-California Merlot, anti-Calfiornia Pinot Noir movie.

                                            There are a number of excellent California Merlots (as well as from Washington State), and far too many (IMHO) California Pinot Noirs that think they are Syrah . . . .

                                            1. Forgive me for grave digging here. I enjoyed going through this thread. I absolutely loved Sideways. A few comments regarding the movie and the thread, if I may.

                                              I think Miles' hatred of merlot is more about what has been done to the grape in California. He initially talks about it being one of the most abused grapes, along with Chardonnay and cabernet franc, if I'm not mistaken. And he continues to show his disgust and disdain for the California version of merlot throughout the movie.

                                              That said, going to the theme of the thread:

                                              Spain (+)
                                              Portugal (+)
                                              Bordeaux (-)
                                              Robert Parker and his 15% ABV fruit bombs (-)
                                              Valpolicella/Amarone (+)
                                              Obscure Italian grapes (+)
                                              Oregon pinot (+)
                                              What someone on this board called "I can't believe it's not syrah pinot" (-)
                                              Cabernet sauvignon (-)
                                              Malbec (+)
                                              Pinot grigio/gris (-)
                                              Pinot blanc (+)
                                              Blanc de blanc champagne (-)
                                              vinho verde, prosecco, and cava (+)
                                              chardonnay (-)
                                              ABC (+)