'Sideways' Strikes Again - No Merlot

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The movie 'Sideways' strikes again by inspiring a new web site called NoMerlot.com, a not so pretentious guide to wine, except merlot.

The movie 'Sideways' strikes again by inspiring a new wine review web site called: NoMerlot.com - a not so pretentious guide to wine, except merlot.

NoMerlot.com launched a mere two months ago as a joint effort of Serr.biz LLC and Hoboken Vine Inc. Both are located in Hoboken New Jersey. In this short time, NoMerlot.com already enjoys over 6,000 unique visits a month. Additionally, Michael Zittel and Clark Huang, the co-owners of NoMerlot.com, hand pick writers with a genuine voice and irreverent tone. To boot, NoMerlot.com actually pay their writers.

“Traditional wine reviews tend to be staid and pretentious. We prefer writers with a bit of tongue-in-cheek style, humor and irreverence for the norm. Prior to NoMerlot.com, I was a bit of beer recluse, just drinking wine occasionally. Clark is the expert. I'm the geek. But, reading all the reviews, some of which are hysterical, especially Deborah Hanousek and Jay Franz, I've begun to drink wine much more, and wonder what took me so long.”

Besides paying writers, part of the NoMerlot.com appeal is their commitment to clearly define "real reviews” from “marketing plugs." Many of the established wine review sites claim non-biased reviews, but curiously, some top rated wines often taste far below their ratings. To make everyone happy, they included a section of their site just for marketers called, "Shameless Plugs." There, wine marketers may post their marketing copy, free.

On the note of ratings, NoMerlot.com ditched the numeric standards set by Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate. Really, unless one the sensitivity of a dog's nose, can a human really distinguish the difference between a 99 and a 98? Their ratings take a trip back to high school with a grading structure of A, B, C and D. The ultimate purpose of their new rating is to “shift the focus back to the wine you are drinking rather than its score,” says Clark Huang, who has been acquiring and enjoying good wine since law school.

As for the purpose of NoMerlot.com, the site is really a good-humored plea for the return of artistry to wine making. Unfortunately, as "Sideways" brought to light, Merlot fell from its state of grace into a mass-produced commodity. Hopefully, this will not be the fate of Merlot in America, but in the mean time, No Merlot!

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Michael Zittel