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Monkey See, Monkey Drink

What you see on TV and in the movies may influence what you eat and drink more than you think

Posted: Feb 19, 2015 4:00pm ET

By Robert Taylor

The "As Seen on TV" section of the drug store is always a must-peruse for me.

Miracle Copper Socks™, The Stuffed Animal That's Also a Fish Tank™, Stufz Stuffed Burger Maker™, Perfect Bacon Bowl™, Veggetti™, Rapid Ramen Cooker™ (because 4 minutes is 2 more minutes than I have!) ... there's a seemingly never-ending supply of late-night infomercial curiosities. But nobody's buying this stuff, right? Wrong.

My parents, for one, routinely set the dogs off when they prep home fries with their Vidalia Chop Wizard™.

But we fine-wine connoisseurs, with our refined tastes and educated palates, are immune to such pitchman product puffery, right? Wrong again.

We reported this week that perhaps the most popular wineglass in the country at the moment, Crate & Barrel's Camille red wineglass, has seen a 20-fold increase in sales since becoming the wineglass of choice of fictional Washington power broker Olivia Pope, played by actress Kerry Washington on the ABC series Scandal.

Now you might be sitting there swirling a glass of Pinot Noir in your Riedel Vinum series, thinking Hollywood can't tell you how to drink your wine. But ask yourself how much Pinot Noir you'd be drinking were it not for the movie Sideways?

According to the California Wine Institute, Pinot Noir sales jumped nearly 20 percent in the eight months following the film's release in 2004. By 2012, California vintners crushed nearly 250,000 tons of Pinot Noir. That's a more than 350 percent increase over 2004's 70,000 tons.

More recently, reality-TV star and talk-show host Bethenny Frankel's Skinnygirl brand of wine, spirits and cocktails, founded in 2009, soared from 90,000 cases sold in 2010 to 595,000 cases sold in 2011 to 950,000 cases sold in 2012, according to Impact Databank.

Look back even further and, though we laugh about the commercials now, more than a few of today's stodgiest old enophiles were drinking wines pitched by James Mason and Orson Welles in the 1970s.

Who do we credit for sparking America's cooking and dining revolution? Two TV chefs, of course: Julia Child and Jacques Pépin. More recently, Emeril Lagasse and Mario Batali have proudly borne the standard, with hundreds of would-be usurpers on a dozen networks waiting in the wings.

We can often look to trendsetters when trying to spot the next big thing in wine. The hip-hop community has provided boosts to sales of both Moscato in the values category and Champagne—first Cristal and then Ace of Spades—on the luxury end.

These days it's all the rage among the hipster somm crowd to champion natural wines and the Jura, or Sherry, or Cabernet Franc. Which of those is actually going to end up making a splash? I'll tell you just as soon as Courteney Cox pours herself a glass of vin jaune on Cougar Town.

Evan Byrne
Serralunga d'Alba, Piemonte, Italy —  February 20, 2015 9:03am ET
Cabernet Franc, eh? If that happens, then I guess the 'Sideways Effect' will be well and truly over...
Brandon Redman
Brandon R., Seattle, WA —  February 23, 2015 5:51pm ET
I wholeheartedly disagree, if you're directing your post to we, the oenophiles of the world. If you're using, "We" to refer to the greater population (read: those who buy their wine at the grocery store, exclusively, usually at the sub-$10 level), then I'd bet you're right. However, I really don't think wine enthusiasts are steered toward Skinny Girl, to avoiding Merlot, to Moscato because of hip-hop stars, etc. etc. much, if at all, because of what we see on TV.
Robert Taylor
New York —  February 23, 2015 8:58pm ET
Fair points Brandon. Though young Bruce Wayne just brought a bottle of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche 1966 up from the cellar for Alfred on tonight's episode of Gotham, further enforcing that brand's reputation as the pinnacle of luxury for we enophiles, so I'd say there's something on the tube speaking to everyone, at every level of wine appreciation.

Last night I caught Kingsman at the theater, and was tickled to see Samuel L. Jackson's supervillain character serve 1945 Lafite paired with McDonald's. A 1937 Yquem was suggested for dessert. I was reminded of Sideways' Miles drinking '61 Cheval-Blanc from a Styrofoam cup with sliders. We'll see if fine Bordeaux and fast food catches on …

Cheers,

Rob

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