In recent years, Chilean wine has been garnering long deserved attention, as the quality and diversity of the country’s products have been exposed to a wider international audience. This year, however, the industry has turned the head of a figure who could have an unprecedented impact on the wine world in Chile.
Rex Pickett’s novel Sideways was not even attached to a publisher when it was first laid on the desk of director Alexander Payne. Whatsmore, the story of Miles and Jack – two fortysomething wine enthusiasts tackling personal anguish in California’s picturesque wine country – hardly met a formula that satisfied those Hollywood production houses keen on sure-things over authenticity.
So when the movie grossed over US$100 million worldwide and brought in 350 awards including an Oscar for best screenplay, Pickett was more surprised than anyone.
“It was something I was completely unprepared for,” Pickett told ProChile. “And its influence was not limited to the movie industry. Sideways made wine hip again. Beer was no longer people’s adult drink of choice – for the first time in more than a decade, wine was topping preference polls.”
The movie caused a direct rise in wine sales in the U.S. and the U.K., with Pinot Noir experiencing a huge 16 percent increase in sales. Chile could be next in line to experience the “Sideways Effect,” as Pickett is unleashing his characters across Chilean wine country in the series’ latest book.
“After Vertical (the second book in the series), I felt like Miles had sucked the marrow out of the U.S. Pacific Coast,” Pickett said. “He and I needed somewhere new to explore, so when Mario Velasco (of Chilean production company Magallanica) contacted me about coming to Chile, it seemed like the perfect fit.”
Pickett is in his first weeks of a four month research trip, sponsored by Wines of Chile, that will see him sipping and writing his way through Chilean wine country, or “Wine’s last frontier” as he calls it.
“I’m so excited to really get going. I’ve already met so many interesting people who are doing such creative things in winemaking, stuff I’ve never seen before,” Pickett said.
“I can’t wait to get out to Maipo Valley, as well as Casablanca, Elqui and Maule Valley, and Colchagua. The diverse microclimates, the rich volcanic soils, and the creativity of the winemakers here all contribute to the outstanding level and number of quality wines there are in this country.”
To follow Rex on his journey, visit the blog he will be regularly updating, Rex in Chile.