As is tradition in the world of Merlot there is at least one decent article that sings its merits while reiterating the struggles of the “Sideways Effect.” In September Bloomberg posted one such article that explored the topic once more. The points I loved about the article were those that dove into why Merlot fell out of favor, and it largely was not due to the movie…though it certainly did not help.
The biggest point was that Merlot was one of the popular varieties in the 1990s. The downside to almost anything that becomes trendy is that plenty of folks jump on the bandwagon to try and make their quick buck while they can. Such was the case with Merlot into the early 2000s. Wine growers and producers started planting it in odd spots and mass-producing Merlot. Quantity vs quality decided to kick into gear and suddenly there was a glut of not-so-great Merlot in stores and restaurants. Follow up less-than-awesome wine with a cult movie and “the Effect” had taken hold.
On the plus side, as the article points out, the large scale bandwagon producers quickly got out of the Merlot game for other varieties and blends that had not fallen out of favor. The “real” Merlot producers continued doing what they were good at, making awesome Merlot under the radar while the larger market trend had settled down. Today you still have a few great producers who put a ton of emphasis on making ridiculously good Merlot. Long story short don’t call it a comeback, Merlot was here the whole time.
Looking at today’s trends you might see the same thing happen with rosé or even Cabernet Sauvignon. While they might continue to have more popularity than ever, there will be a fall off. In a certain sense you can see that as geekier, obscure varieties and styles pop up in restaurants and wine shops.
Where these trends will actually go we don’t really know, it is up to us as consumers. Once that train gets moving it will be up to us again to sort through the pretenders and the passionate. All I can really say that the ebbs and flows of wines is interesting to watch and I am curious where they will go next.