If you've seen the movie "Sideways," you know that it slams Merlot big time. At one point the Miles character (played by Paul Giamatti) says, "If anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving. I am not drinking any fucking Merlot."
That's fine and good, since Merlot was way too trendy in the 1990s. But Miles' wine of choice is Pinot Noir. And because of that movie, Pinot sales are surging. I've even been to parties where people made a big deal about serving it, citing "Sideways" as their inspiration. (Today's Chronicle does a good job documenting the phenomenon.)
Here's where we have a problem: Most cheap Pinot is flavorless swill. And since most people I know tend to only drink inexpensive wine, the result is that we're drinking a lot more flavorless swill. At low price points, Cabernet and Merlot typically have more character.
I feel like it used to be an accepted fact that most Pinot was bland and lame. I recall being ridiculed at a North Beach restaurant one time when we tried to order Pinot (the waiter asked why we didn't want to order a "real" wine).
And here's another twist to the story: Apparently the creators of "Sideways" had originally planned to make Miles a fan of Merlot -- or at least one Merlot in particular. His character was going to be obsessed with a Merlot from Chateau Petrus Pomerol, which makes the most expensive Merlots in the world. But the film makers couldn't get the rights from Petrus (which found the script "unexciting"). So instead they made Miles' favorite wine a Chateau Cheval Blanc. But this is clearly a case of using Reese's Pieces when you get rejected by M&M!