Three years after a fictional wine snob in a popular Hollywood movie knocked one of Americaâ€™s best-selling red wine varietals “Sideways,” wine drinkers once again are enthusiastically embracing Merlot.
During the 12-month period ending December 7, 2007, dollar sales of domestically produced Merlots rose 6%, paced by category leader Blackstone Winery, whose benchmark Merlot jumped 11.6% in sales in the last four-week period alone.
Blackstone Merlot has been featured several times through the years by the wines clubs of Vinesse.
Blackstone winemaker Gary Sitton attributes the resurgence of Merlot to the enduring appeal of the wine’s style, which emphasizes forward fruit and soft tannins.
“American wine drinkers may be fickle in the short term,” Sitton says, “but eventually they come home to what tastes good to them, and what has tasted good to them for a long time is Merlot.”
Sitton’s observations are confirmed by the fact that the U.S. wine market continues to be dominated by Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, which together account for 45% of total wine sales. Sales of Merlot are more than double those of Pinot Noir, the next best-selling red wine.
Sitton predicts these figures will become even more impressive with the release of the 2006 Merlot vintage.
“2006 was a winemaker’s vintage,” says Sitton. “It was cool and drawn out, so we had the luxury of allowing the fruit to hang on the vine, developing the ripe fruit flavors and tannins we wanted. I believe 2006 is a strong vintage for Merlot.”