The movie "Sideways"...


The producers of this popcorn fare didn't know much about wine.  Throughout this wine-guy-as-dork/snob stereotype film, the main character "Miles" repeatedly insults both Merlot and Cab Franc.   He calls Cab Franc "hollow, flabby" and "pointless" and he devotes and entire 5 minute tirade railing against Merlot.

So, what is the denouement wine he's drinking at the end of the film?  CHATEAU CHEVAL BLANC!!!  It's over 90% Merlot/Cab Franc, and obviously the producers were not aware of that.  I'm only pointing out one item, but there are a number of inconsistencies and fallacies relevant to wine throughout the movie.  What gets me is that it has become so much of a reference point for wine knowledge among the general population; why?  It just doesn't make any sense.

Here is a story about Cheval Blanc you may not have heard:

The manager of Château Cheval Blanc, Jacques Hebrard, was outraged at the evaluation of his 1981 vintage barrel samples made by influential wine critic Robert M. Parker, Jr. and asked him to re-taste. Upon arriving, Parker was attacked by Hebrard's dog as the manager stood idly by and watched. When Parker asked for a bandage to stop the bleeding from his leg, Parker says Hebrard instead gave him a copy of the offending newsletter. Hebrard denies that Parker was bleeding. However, Parker did retaste the wine and found it significantly changed from his previous evaluation, and therefore gave the wine an updated evaluation in a later issue of his publication The Wine Advocate.

  • I always figured that the writer of the film knew the make up of Cheval Blanc and that was used as yet another device to show Miles for what he truly was.  

    Jaws is still my favorite wine movie. Followed closely by The Jerk.  

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous over 10 years ago in reply to Eric Crane

    Eric, I would definately have to agree.  The story line and character development of Miles as the main character, is absolutely tied to the irony of his passionate disgust for merlot, along with many things in life, and his 'favorite' bottle of wine in the world!  I've always attributed this classic and iconic twist in the movie to the brilliance of the writers.  And they knew that us wine geeks would get this extra little kicker as an added bonus to the humor and irony of the film.  

  • "Withnail and I" is my favorite wine movie.   53 Margaux from the bottle in the rain, "Sherry.", "Tea and cake.  And fine wine.  We want the the finest wines known to humanity.  We want them here.  And we want them NOW."

    As regards Sideways, I spent an epic 17 hour day with Tom Rinaldi  (Duckhorn 76-99 and Provenence/Hewiit 00-present) many things were consumed and many subjects chewed and spit while wine was swallowed, but when Sideways was brought up he told me that the writer was a friend of his and obviously Tom has something to say about the negative press vis-a-vis Merlot, but the whole thing was as Eric suggested a device to highlight the more ridiculous aspects of a blowhard insecure dilettante who tried to seduce a woman far out of his league with that Pinot monologue.  I had a guest come into the restaurant after the movie came out went on for five minutes about how much she loved it and asked me if I saw it.  


    Guest:"Do you have any Pinot Noirs on your list?"

    Me:"We have many Pinot Noirs on our list."  I pointed out the American Pinot Noir section and then showed her Burgundy and also mentioned that we had some from Australia and NZ as well.

    Guest:"Wow that's great.  So that's a type of Cabernet?"

    Me: (long pause)  

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous over 9 years ago in reply to Tom Gannon

    Hysterical!  What'd she end up ordering? White Zin?!

  • I heard an interview once with Rex Pickett, the writer of Sideways, who said that it (choosing Cheval Blanc) was done deliberately on the part of the film writers for two reasons:  firstly, they couldn't get the approval from Latour (their first choice) to use that wine in the film, and secondly, as was suggested in this thread, to capitalize on Miles' ironic character.  But it was not something that Mr. Pickett was totally happy with - strictly a Hollywood decision.  I think the interview was on the podcast "People in Wine" from a few years back...

  • No she settled on Saintsbury Pinot 2004 after I quickly recovered and steered her in a CA Pinot direction.  Always about the guest...

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous over 9 years ago in reply to Tom Gannon

    I had always heard that orginally Sideways was supposed to take place in Oregon instead of Santa Yzez, but the Oregonian wino's said no because they didn't want to 'sell out'. Does anyone have any thoughts on that subject?

  • I believe a sequel is headed into Oregon, this may or may not happen...

  • As a producer of pinot noir I can tell you there are too many Miless (or is it Mili?) in the world.  I spend a lot of time in the tasting room where I see that few of them understand neither the elegance of pinot noir, or the complexity of merlot.  

    Perhaps the lack of charecter development come from these people have little charecter?

  • I'm from Portland and am friends with people from Oregon Film (State run org that provides tax credits to filmmakers for choosing Oregon) and they had never heard of that.  

    Funny story, the pres of University of Oregon was once approached about filming a movie there and around Eugene. He read the script and thought it awful That was the Graduate.  The next script that crossed his desk he just rubber stamped it. That was Animal House.

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous over 9 years ago in reply to Robert Volz

    Unfortunately, whatever the motivation of having Cheval Blanc on the table at the end of the film, the damage had been done. With those infamous words, "I am not drinking merlot!", sales in my local market plummeted for anything labeled 'merlot'. The public took it as fact and it became known as a value wine to those who claim to love wine but rarely study it. To me, the main character seemed like a jerk. I imagine people were thinking 'Hey, I wanna be just like that jerk over there!'

  • Jeanne,

    Because of that movie resulted in an explosion of Pinot Noir interest and in the Santa Ynez region, I have one word...... Oops?

  • Edge of Darkness has a great wine scene.

  • I remember that somewhere in the early 90's Spectator gave Walnut Crest Merlot an 88 point and "Best Buy" rating--it sold like hotcakes ($1.50 a stack!) and the supply couldn't keep up with the demand for Merlot.  Funny thing is that it was probably Carmenere anyways, and the US began to guzzle really young, cheap Merlot.  

    Please pass the Fronsac!

  • I feel that any movie that brings wine to the masses in a positive light can be benefitial.  Of course there had to be many flaws in Miles' character, and I always figured the Cheval Blanc was deliberate.  

    Im glad that, if true or not, the movie did not take place in Oregon and the people there did not 'sell out.'  Kind of surprised it wasnt in Carneros to be honest.

    WHat do people think of the Russell Crowe movie 'A Good Year'  I found it to be enjoyable enough and had a good storyline with some humuor.


  • I'm positive I saw a bottle of 1982 Toro Albala PX sitting on the counter of the kitchen in the movie Kick Ass.

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