In the film Sideways, which earned an Academy Award in 2005 for Best Adapted Screenplay and boosted the careers of Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh, those descriptive words aptly captured the character of angst-ridden, wine-obsessed protagonist Miles Raymond, played with self-flagellating glee by Paul Giamatti.
The same words also tell the story of an equally important, but liquid, character in the film: pinot noir. A dozen years later, pinot noir has become a mainstay of the California wine industry, and winemakers credit the film with bringing deserved attention to the varietal, calling it “The Sideways Effect.”
“Pinot noir production in California has increased roughly 170 percent since Sideways was released,” says wine industry analyst Gabriel Froymovich of Vineyard Financial Associates, noting that total wine production has increased 7-8 percent during the same time. “I think people who were into wine saw the passion for pinot noir in the movie, decided to explore that variety a bit, and realized how lovely a wine that grape makes.”
The Sideways Effect is generally credited with depressing the market for merlot wine, based on a memorable line from the movie when Miles colorfully proclaims his disdain for the wine — the back story is that his ex-wife liked merlot — declaring, “No, if anyone orders merlot, I’m leaving. I am NOT drinking any fucking merlot!”