Five times films and TV shows inspired alcohol trends

Sideways and Merlot


2004’s Sideways centres on two friends hitting the road to sample some Californian wine. In what has to be one of the film’s most classic lines, Paul Giamatti’s unstable vino fanatic Miles Raymond screams “If anyone orders Merlot I’m leaving. I’m not drinking any f*cking Merlot!”

The wisdom of taking an unpleasant fictional character’s rant to heart is questionable, but it’s believed some drinkers started to avoid the grape after seeing the film.

“It was just a joke,” director Alexander Payne told USA Today. “But it sort of became the equivalent of 1934’s It Happened One Night, when Clark Gable removed his shirt to reveal no undershirt. Reportedly sales of undershirts plummeted.”

The film’s impact on Merlot was actually relatively muted, with the wine already in steady decline before the film was released. Its greater impact was on Pinot Noir sales after Miles waxes lyrical about the grape.

“Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot’s potential can then coax it to its fullest expression,” Miles says in the film. “Then, I mean, oh its flavours, they’re just the most haunting and brilliant and subtle and ancient thing on the planet.”

As a result Pinot sales rocketed by 16% in the months after the film.

The ultimate irony of Miles’s outburst of course is that his most treasured, ‘unicorn’, wine, a 1961 Château Cheval Blanc, is largely composed of Merlot (and Cabernet Franc).

4 Responses to “Five times films and TV shows inspired alcohol trends”

  1. Tim Clark says:

    Interesting, and fun to look back with hindsight. It’s true that references in popular culture can shape our tastes. I first tried a whisky sour (still my favourite cocktail) for one simple reason: because I read Raymond Chandler’s hardboiled masterpiece “Farewell My Lovely” as a teenager. I simply didn’t think that you could get cooler than this:

    We went over to the bar. The barman swabbed the bar hurriedly. The customers, by ones and twos and threes, drifted out, silent across the bare floor, silent down the dim uncarpeted stairs. Their departing feet scarcely rustled.
    “Whisky sour,” the big man said.
    We had whisky sours.

  2. This article literally hit home with me; I’m a principal at HERO Entertainment Marketing. We placed Grey Goose with Will Smith in Hitch, placed the Jaegermeister bottle on Joey and Chandler’s kitchen counter on Friends, and most recently, we placed a bottle of Chateau Gaby Cuvee in Axe’s hand on Showtime’s Billions. To the article’s point, Axe’s implied endorsement led to a very well known TV personality ordering a case the day after its airing and, once they tasted it, ordering more. We also learned that another of our industry contacts was watching Billions, researched the unfamiliar brand and made a purchase as a direct result of that exposure.

    It’s rare to get anecdotal reports of the power of this kind of influence, so I appreciate the author sharing those great examples, including his own experiences. In today’s marketing world exposures can be amplified by social media so that consumers can learn that, say, Don Draper drinks Canadian Club, even if they don’t watch the show.

  3. Jamie Wheat says:

    There is a different blend of drinks now on the market, and I don’t even know if they can be classed as cocktails? Craft spirits are continuing to grow and grow across all sectors, as with things like the non-alcoholic gin alternative Seedlip, blending of typically alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic is something we can expect to see more and more. As well as this, there are some fascinating gins our there, and I can imagine the growing popularity of rum will start going down the same route. I have started off several new drinks distilleries (not all successful), but I have a good working relationship with a company called Distill Ventures who invest on behalf of Diego in products they believe to have huge potential. Worth checking out the company as they are great at identifying new alcohol trends and helping start-up distilleries realise their potential. It always helps when a film or tv show heavily uses a drink as well as it becomes more part of pop culture and gets a heavy promotion.

  4. imagista says:

    the mad men series made me rethink about several old school cocktail that I totally forgot, now I sometimes order an old fashioned, Gibson, or a nice cold Julep like don drapper 😀

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our newsletters