Apparently, the film Sideways is having a Delia-esque effect on wine sales. You'll remember that no sooner had Delia Smith pronounced a certain omelette pan or ingredient to be the best than it was sold out across the country. Well, the anti-hero of Sideways has caused a similar run on Pinot Noir.
Those of you who have seen the film will know that Miles is a Pinot Noir obsessive. He empathises with the grape's thin, sensitive skin, and is fixated in particular with Cheval Blanc, especially the "legendary" 1961. Miles is inclined to pretension, but there is no doubting his passion or knowledge of this subject. Which is why, once you've seen the film, you won't be able to think of Pinot Noir in the same way - especially if you didn't know much about it in the first place. Just as wannabe cooks were the ones hanging on Delia's every product placement, quality-wine virgins are the ones now sending Pinot Noir sales through the roof.
This type - the Suggestibles - are an advertiser's dream (I count myself among them, by the way). We are the ones who rush out to buy the re-released Nick Drake album the second a Nick Drake revival is mooted in the press. We're the ones who have shelves groaning with selenium, zinc, omega-3 and all the other must-have health supplements of the hour. When The River Cafe Cook Book Easy came out we snapped up a copy, believing that this book with the silvery cover and bright lettering would be the one to trigger our culinary talent (even though we already owned the original, and the follow-up). Fads, fashions and celebrity example dictate our tastes to a shaming degree, so throw us a line about Pinot in a smart new film and we're suddenly mad for this grape. (Incidentally, second only to Miles's passion for Pinot Noir is his contempt for Merlot. Who knew that Merlot is the Black Tower of grape varieties? Everyone but me?)
Miles himself is at the other end of the scale from the Suggestible type. He is a Scholar - someone who bases all his consumer choices on careful research, who is never swayed by packaging or fashion or a tempting knock-down price. There are plenty of men in the Suggestibles category, but you don't find a lot of women who are Scholars in the Miles mould. If you think about it, the amateur wine bore is pretty much always male. Women seem to lack the gene that turns passion into nerdy obsession. Years of shopping have taught us that nothing is so special you should save it for best, that you can never guarantee the shelf life of anything, and that the reckless purchase is often the most satisfying.
If you've got a Cheval Blanc '61 that you're keeping for a special occasion, we'll drink it.