Back in 2004, a minute-long scene from a little movie called Sideways changed the wine industry forever. Almost overnight, Merlot went from the most popular type of red wine in the U.S. to a total outcast. Anyone who wanted to appear that they knew anything about wine shunned the stuff for Pinot Noir, and to this day, Merlot has a bad reputation. The wine is usually lumped into one of two categories – “that’s what my grandparents drink” and “you can buy a jug of that stuff at Wal-Mart.” Can Merlot ever recover? Despite what Paul Giamatti’s neurotic character Miles has to say, there’s plenty of good Merlot out there. That, and Merlot has recently made its way back into pop culture in a very significant way.
Love it or hate it, probably the best thing that can happen to a wine varietal or label (or any brand, for that matter) is to be name-dropped in a rap song. Just take a look at Moscato: according to their songs, this sweet and relatively inexpensive varietal is the beverage of choice for artists like Drake and Kanye West when they want to party. In 2011, sales of Moscato d’Asti jumped 70% – hardly a coincidence. The fact is, if these guys give a shout out to a type of wine, the public will buy it. And, regardless of the means, I think it’s cool to see a large population of new wine consumers drinking a varietal that was pretty under the radar prior to its newfound street cred.
On that note, I was listening to the radio the other day and I heard a lyric from rapper B.o.b.’s new single “So Good” that made me pretty excited:
“Private reservations, glasses full of Merlot.”
The concept of this song is that B.o.b. is showing a girl the finer things in life. They’re jet setting, taking in famous pieces of art, and when it’s time for dinner, they’re drinking Merlot. Curious to see if this was a one-time name drop or a theme, I consulted one of my favorite sources for information: RapGenius.com. I typed “Merlot” into the search bar, and pulled up over two dozen excerpts from modern rap songs that mention the noble grape (warning, some of the lyrics behind the link are explicit). Turns out, Lil’ Wayne, Usher, Ludacris, and 50 Cent are all fans, and they’re rapping its praises. Could Merlot be making a comeback?
At the end of the day, it’s ridiculous to base your beverage choices on what rappers claim to drink in their songs. If we did, we would all be broke…and probably also dead (see: sizzurp). However, it’s equally ridiculous that Merlot fell so out of favor with the public in the first place because of one scene from one movie. Truth is, like with any wine, there’s exceptional Merlot, and there's awful Merlot, and it’s up to you to taste it and see for yourself what you actually like. At the end of the day, if it gets people who are new to wine to taste something they wouldn't have ordinarily tried, then that’s a good thing. In fact, it’s So Good.
(Part 1 in a series of examining the relationship between rap music and the wine industry. Because…well, why not?)