Making Merlot Cool Again with #MerlotMe

We’re halfway through the month of October and #MerlotMe is trending nicely. Looking back to 2013 when the first mention of the hash tag appeared on wine lover’s radars, we can start to see the thing is working.

It all started in September last year when I sat down with Belinda Weber of Duckhorn over lunch. “If you look at restaurant wine lists these days, the Merlot category is disappearing,” she pointed out. And she’s right. Since the movie Sideways came out a decade ago, Merlot has taken a beating.

For Belinda and Duckhorn it’s not really a problem to solve as they are the industry leader when it comes to the Merlot grape. It’s the rest of the industry that needs help. “We’re in a unique position to help the rest of the industry by trying to help revive interest in Merlot,” she went on to say. Duckhorn’s rising tide floats all boats mentality is indicative of the wine industry when it’s at its best. From that conversation at lunch we hatched an idea to use social media to right the SS Merlot ship and make Merlot cool again. Bakas Media handled the social media strategy and Duckhorn coordinated participation with domestic Merlot producers.

“Virtually all the results are consistent with the theory that “Sideways” had a negative impact on the consumption of Merlot…”

- Dr. Steven S. Cuellar, Associate Professor of Economics at Sonoma State University

To be fair, when Sideways came out there was a glut of average juice in the market. Winemakers took a look at clones, farming practices and vineyard management when assessing the quality level being produced. Because Merlot is a chameleon of a grape, it can grow many places and can be made with ease. Over the past decade, the industry has quietly raised the bar on Merlot quality by trimming the fat and keeping the best clones in the best places where above average wine can be made.

This year, we continue the momentum of last year’s #MerlotMe effort with an entire monthlong celebration designed to put Merlot in people’s glasses and to get wine lovers excited about the grape again. We created a merlotme.com microsite with listings of tastings around the country, a visual stream of what people are drinking and a list of participating wineries.

Halfway through October, the stats are as follows:

- Over 700 unique wine lovers have used the hashtag this month

- Over 2,100 tweets have been sent so far

- Over 4,000,000 people have been reached

- Over 33,900,000 impressions have been registered