Here Is My Little Therory….Am I Nuts?

So here’s the deal. I am going to just put it out there and see what comes of it. Pinot noir is huge right now. Sideways helped that happen. The demand for pinot noir is at an all time high but because the grape is not the easiest to harvest and take care of and because of its sensitivity to climate producers cannot fulfill the demand. So I see the U.S. catching on to this dilemma in the next couple of years realizing that the industrialization of the little pinecone can only go so far. I don’t think pinot sales will necessarily drop but I can see them reaching a plateau. When this plateau happens the merlot producers will be stepping out of the shadows to show us what they have been doing during pinot noir’s time in the limelight.
I feel that the 1990’s were good and bad to merlot in the United States. We fell in love with this grape’s wine because we loved it for what it was: a soft plum-jammy, sometimes spicy with a bit of coffee, easy to drink wine with aromas and flavors reminiscent of those merlot based Bordeaux blends from St. Emilion and Pomerol as well as the Bordeaux-style blends of the legendary Warren Winiarski at Stag’s Leap (sigh). Then it caught on and became a kind of demented obsession for the mass market as producers in California began to industrialize one hundred percent merlot to the point of lunacy. It just worked. Merlot is versatile and is harvested earlier than cabernet. It has a somewhat tough skin and yes it is susceptible to freeze and rot but I believe that is only if not harvested early enough. It also likes cold soil for those cool desert nights. By the end of the 1990’s merlot was not what it was before the craze. It wasn’t seen anymore as a wonderful wine for what it was. It was now just the swill that people bought for parties. No one thought about it anymore because there was so much bad merlot out there no one knew what was good and what was bad. But the trend held and the year 2004 came.
“The movie,” was released and…WOW. Everyone scrambled to find pinot noir wherever they could. No one really knew where to get it and from which country to buy it. So the media came in to help. Articles were written about the history of the grape and the number system was being put to work to help people get their pinot, whether it was from California or France or this place called New Zealand. Oregon was emerging into the limelight because of the states love for the new star and producers like Ken Wright got hit with a wave of love from the country that had been ignoring this finicky little grape for some time. And so, our little blackbird hung its head turned and walked off stage to the theme song of Sideways.
I don’t believe pinot noir can be industrialized…wait I take that back…anything can be industrialized but I just don’t know how far pinot noir can be. It is a picky and sensitive grape and I think the demand for the wine it yields cannot be met. Where merlot is resilient and easy to mass-produce; pinot noir has many objections to being made into jug wine. I think this is all just great. It’s the natural evolution of things. According to my weird little theory pinot noir will help the sales of merlot. The United States as of 2010 (some say 2008) will be the number one wine consuming country in the world. I think a love for pinot helped that along and gave us a palate for well put together wines that are deep and complex, invoking poetic musings. When merlot takes center stage with pinot in the next couple of years it will be a beautiful thing. I am not saying that all merlot in the U.S. is mass-produced and bad. Hell no. My wife and I just had a wonderful Californian merlot from Gainey in the Santa Ynez Valley last night with some salad and a simple pasta dish and it was delicious. I will be posting that one next. It’s just that the focus is on pinot noir right now and the good merlot is being ignored.
So there it is folks. Am I nuts? Am I on to something? Are my ramblings all for naught? Let me know. Until then: cheers.

10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by internet TV on August 2, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    Hello again. Well, this is an interesting theory. If all were to go south ( so-to-speak) for Pinot, then yes, your theory could be right. My thoughts:
    Perhaps the sale of a bottle of Pinot Noir will be especially higher making it even more sought after, if there is a drought, and Merlot could take the lead based on cost efficiency alone. Perhaps when/if this does happen, then Merlot will finally get its day in the spotlight and people will be forced (or with knowing), to learn much more about this genuine grape, thus wanting more as well.
    I think there may be a lull for a while, but if there is a way to figure this out, and with US getting smarter about producing wine, then Pinot Noir will have a great come back. Who’s to say if there was a Pinot Noir set back, and Merlot took the lead, if the consumer would be able or want to shift gears again.
    Interesting theory, but I think that they will figure it out, just as someone will come out with the best replacement for the cork. It’s not been done yet, just give it time.



  2. Posted by EVWG on August 2, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    Cool! Thanks for responding. Weather being a key factor makes complete sense. My ideas were purely based on trends and social acceptance tiring based on not being able to keep up with demand. But a drought would totally bring things into focus. My hope is that merlot and pinot can share the stage. They both are great. Time will definitely tell and in the meantime I will being drinking mrelot and sussing it out from wherever it’s grown. By the way have you come across a vin-lok. Very intriguing. 🙂



  3. Posted by michael ann on August 3, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    Vin lok? Hmmm, no, but you have my attention. Please tell more!


  4. Posted by EVWG on August 4, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    The glass cork is very exciting. It looks like a typical glass wine stopper but is custom made to the bottle for shipping and packaging. There is an, I think aluminum capsule covering the top of the bottle which can be twisted of to reveal the glass cork. All you need to do then is put your thumb between the lip of the bottle and the bottom of the stopper and push. It breaks the air seal and you are in business. There is a possibility that this new technology will solve some problems and anxieties of aging wine. I hope this link works so can get a good look at one.



  5. Posted by ChefWife on August 5, 2007 at 1:35 am

    I’m no wine geek, but I know this guy is great at what he does. Bravo.


  6. Posted by GollyGumDrops on August 5, 2007 at 9:18 am

    Sometimes the pendulum has to swing a long way before people recognise things for their own merits. We’ve been through ABC (Anything But Chardonnay/Cabernet Suavignon) and the Sideways push for Pinot, each time it does encourage people to try something new, butsometimes at the risk of rubbishing something wonderful.

    Merlot is marvellous, it can be outstanding, it can be easy drinking, but it is easier to grow than Pinot. Pinot is great, but it’s a delicate thing, made well it’s wonderful, badly it’s insipid.

    Wine is a wonderful pallet, I’m all in favour of people drinking a beautiful landscape through the year!


  7. Posted by EVWG on August 5, 2007 at 7:32 pm

    Hey Chef wife. Thanks for stopping by. Your blog is just down right awesome. What a great take on the culinary world. Right on!!



  8. Posted by EVWG on August 5, 2007 at 7:44 pm

    Gollygumdrops- Thanks for for your thoughts. I agree completely. I sooo enjoy the entire landscape of wine from nose to palate and I think the wine culture in the U.S. is slowly but surely branching out and embracing that diversity. I have seen it just leafing through Wine publications over the past five or so years. People are being informed more than ever(but mostly through blogs) about that landscape with varietals like mencia and torrontes and that crazy cool Bull’s Blood.

    What’s even cooler is as these trends die down the wine or blend or what have you that has been ignored is revisited with a new love and it becomes seen as even better than before. It is a wonderful cycle. Thanks again for stoppin’ by.



  9. Posted by Galil on September 14, 2007 at 6:07 pm


    I agree with your theory 100%. I think that wine is an inherently impossible thing to mass produce well, simply because so much individual attention and care is needed to produce a fine wine. However, as Sideways is concerned, it’s lambasting of Merlot as a grape or wine, was somewhat of not only an underhanded poke at the mass market wine industry, but also a poke at the mass market consumer. Through the grape vine, I have heard that in cut scene’s Miles states that Merlot was his ex-wife’s favorite wine. And it was for that reason that he refused to “drink any fucking Merlot”. This is not so far-fetched considering that, as many wine geeks were aware of, the right bank 1961 Bordeaux that he bought upon marrying his wife for their 10 year anniversary, was of course, 100% Merlot (the wine he ended up drinking from a McDonalds paper cup.
    All this just goes to show that the mass market consumer will always be there willing to drink the mass market production, and sheepishly follow any self-proclaimed expert.
    At my wine shop, the day after Robert Parker’s latest issue comes out, we deal with the calls of sheeps A-Z looking for the wine he gave a 98 point rating to. (The latest was Cayuse Syrah from Washington State).
    Your theory, if correct, as I believe it is, should lead us to this conclusion: that there is and will continue to be more barrels of insipid Pinot Noir produced – all one needs to do is pick up a handful of California PN’s at their local shop to confirm that.

    -Gal “the nose”


  10. Someone is planning to film a movie.. kind of a backlash on all the Merlot bashing, called, “Merlove”…

    I like merlot and I’m not afraid to say it. So there. 🙂

    P.S. Glass corks rock. At least two Napa wineries I know of are doing glass cork… Whitehall Lane and Bravante (Howell Mtn). Hopefully this will catch on.


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