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Marty takes a sideways swipe at poor-quality Merlot

Published:  23 July, 2008

Washington State's king of Merlot' has taken a swipe at the poor-quality Californian Merlot which he believes
has resulted in the damning reference in the film Sideways.

Ever since Miles uttered the immortal words: If anyone orders any f****** Merlot, I'm leaving', in the Oscar-nominated film, sales of the noble Bordeaux grape variety in the US have plummeted.

Merlot man Marty Clubb, of L'Ecole 41, who was in London last week for the Washington State tasting, was asked by Harpers if Sideways had affected his sales. Our Merlot sales are very strong, and that is down to our on-premise presence. Sideways has not hit us.' But he went on to say: Merlot is not a variety that does well in mass production, and there has been a lot of mass-produced Merlot churned out that has been overcropped and bland. Merlot has small berries and small clusters, and you have to be very meticulous with it.

In the mid- and late Nineties, winemakers were going nuts over Merlot. There was too much of it and it wasn't very good.

It's different with the current favourite, Syrah. It does well in most climates and you only have to be remotely correct. In fact, you have to intentionally "stub your toe" with Syrah to screw it up.'

On his website, Chubb proclaims: Merlot is still King at L'Ecole. We simply have the right growing conditions. Our lack of rainfall, intense sunshine and warm summers add up to an intensity of flavor in Merlot lacking in many other parts of the world.'

Chubb's 2002 Seven Hills Vineyard Merlot and Walla Walla Valley Merlot both get 91 points from Wine Spectator and the Seven Hills site made it onto Wine Spectator's list of the 10 Great Vineyards of the World'.