Forget Sideways, Merlot is bigger than ever

Winetaster Extrordinaire!!
Winetaster Extrordinaire!!

Like many wine lovers, I loved the movie, Sideways. It was one of those films where I really felt the script was the star, but there was an inconsistency that I thought was a mistake.

People will remember what was perhaps the most memorable line of the movies, “If anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am not drinking any f***ing Merlot.”

Wine lovers who saw the film will also remember that Miles had a treasure in his collection of wine — a bottle of 1961 Cheval Blanc that he wound up drinking in a fast food restaurant out of a paper cup. It was quite a nice touch that someone with roots in California would turn to the old world for his favourite wine. But Cheval Blanc is a blend of Cabernet Franc and 50% Merlot. Wouldn’t it have been better if Miles had been sitting on an old Burgundy? Or was this a deliberate and clever irony? Thanks to Moyey’s Wine and Travel Blog for the blog intro.

When you look at the BC wine scene you can see that Pinot Noir grape acreage has grown at a compound annual rate of 5% since “Sideways” was released in 2005. At the same time, Merlot acreage is fairly constant at around 1600 acres. You can go to the BC Wine Industry stats page to check out the details.

Merlot Pinot acreage

However, the tons of Merlot harvested has increased exponentially from 2.58 tons per acre in 2008 to almost 4 tons per acre in 2013, the latest year for which stats is available.

Merlot Stats

There is a long list of BC wineries that have won recent awards for Merlot and Merlot dominant blends, apologies in advance to any I missed:
• Arrowleaf Cellars
• Backyard Vineyards
• Black Sage Vineyard
• Burrowing Owl Estate Winery
• C.C. Jentsch Cellars
• Cassini Cellars
• Cedar Creek Estate
• Church & State Winery
• Desert Hills Estate Winery
• Gold Hill Winery
• Gray Monk Estate Winery
• Hillside Estate Winery
• Kraze Legz Winery and Vineyard
• Mission Hill Family Estate
• Monster Vineyards
• Moon Curser Vineyards
• Noble Ridge Winery
• Orofino Vineyards
• Perseus Estate Winery
• Poplar Grove Winery
• Quinta Ferreira
• Top Shelf Winery
• Volcanic Hills Estate Winery
• Quinta Ferreira
• Serendipity Winery
Merlot Award Wineries

However, it is hard to believe you can increase the tonnage per acre by 56% and still deliver a quality wine on average. I could be wrong so let me know your thought?



One comment

  1. Hi Julian,

    The statistics are fascinating. I have never worked it out for myself.

    Merlot wines have always been a great favourite in our house, whether 100% Merlot or, as is often the base, anchoring a great Meritage.

    However, I have had a lot of Merlot that tasted like it came from overcropped vineyards. Four tons should be okay but I bet there are plenty of five and six ton producers, with two/three ton producers to balance things out.

    2010 was a cold year. It was also a small crop because of vine damage from the Thanksgiving weekend freeze in 2009. And 2009 was small because of vine damage from the brutal 2008 winter.

    There has been no vine killing freeze since then; nothing to reduce the Merlot crop. That probably accounts for the volume of grapes.. I am sure this is another big year.

    I am not sure where all of the grapes will be consumed. There was a surplus already last year. A winery at Abbotsford bought Merlot at $400 a ton, delivered, from a desperate grower in the Okanagan. I was in the valley for a funeral early last December and was stunned by the Merlot still on the vines. I know some of it goes for Icewine but Merlot is not a great Icewine grape.



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