Author of megahit Sideways Rex Pickett sets new book in Chile

This is Chile talks to the writer about the third book in the Sideways series that will see cult antiheroes Miles and Jack drink through Chilean wine country.

Every now and then a film comes along whose influence outgrows its own industry and causes cultural change. Sideways was one of those films.
Adapted from Rex Pickett’s novel of the same name, Sideways was the best reviewed film of 2004. The movie gained an incredible rating of 96 percent on review site Rotten Tomatoes, and saw a sevenfold return on its modest US$16 million budget. Whatsmore, the film was directly responsible for a huge increase in wine sales in both the U.S. and the U.K. (a phenomenon known as the Sideways Effect).
Looking for new challenges and new wine country, Rex Pickett has left southern California and headed to Chile to write the latest leg of Miles and Jack’s journey.
This is Chile: Your novels Sideways and Vertical follow the misadventures of two men in their forties who roadtrip through the U.S. Pacific Coast in search of good wine and answers to their many personal crises. Your protagonist Miles could have continued his journey in a multitude of countries – why Chile?
Rex Pickett: At the end of Vertical, Miles is involved with a Spanish girl and you get the sense that he’s sucked the marrow out of the Pacific Coast, as I have done. He wants a big change. He could have gone to France, but everyone’s done France. I actually wasn’t sure I was even going to write a third novel until Mario Velasco from Magallanica, a production company in Chile, got in touch and suggested I come out here. I got excited as soon as I started researching the place.
Chile’s exploding with possibilities. It’s the antipodean mirror opposite of the entire U.S. Pacific Coast, running from southern California all the way up to Washington, so you have this incredible range, not to mention all the microclimates and unique volcanic soils the country has.
TiC: How did Sideways change so many people’s attitude to the wine world – especially it’s connotations with snobbery?
RP: I hate the snobbery. It’s all a by-product of money. You have these Burgundies that have an entry price of US$1,500 just because of their association with the name and its reputation. These costs make many wines inaccessible to most people, and it breeds this elitism.
I think it was the way that Miles romanticised wine that people found so intriguing; he became kind of a bellwether for wine appreciation. He was saying you don’t have to buy a US$5,000 Burgundy – which is mouthwash to Bill Gates – to appreciate a good wine. At the same time, if you know enough, there’s no reason to show up to a party with bottle of ‘two-buck-up-chuck’ or a US$5 Merlot (before anyone starts, I’ve had this argument too many times – there are of course some great Merlots).
Chile is perfect in that way. The most expensive bottle in the country is US$250 and everything else is way below that, yet the quality of the wine is there.
TiC: What Chilean wines have you tried so far that you’ve enjoyed.
RP:  I had a Gewürtztraminer last night that was insane. There’s a great Cabernet Sauvignon here, great Syrah, some Pinots, a Sauvignon Blanc and a Chardonnay that are good. I’m looking forward to getting out there and trying more. Obviously Maipo Valley is a famous destination. But I also can’t wait to get to the Elqui Valley, the Maule Valley, Casablanca and Colchagua.
TiC: What can we expect from Miles and Jack in the new book?
RP: I don’t know yet, I’m here to figure that out. Jack will certainly be a part of it though. He could come down to rescue Miles from an earthquake, fall in love with a woman and get dumped in the Atacama Desert – I don’t know.
With Miles, maybe he gets invited down as I have by a sponsor like Wines of Chile. Maybe Maya (Miles’ love interest in the first book) comes back in the picture and their dream is to buy a plot of land in Patagonia to make some of the biodynamic Pinot I’ve heard about here – something like that.
Wine will be a part of it, but look – I’ve written and directed two feature films, both of which were road movies. Sideways is kind of a sojourn movie, and Vertical would clearly be a road movie. I’m into road movies, road gives me change. I’m really into this journey and where it takes Miles. Chile will be a journey and wine will play a part, but I don’t know what that journey is yet because I have to experience the country first, and that’s what I’m excited about right now.
Follow Rex’s Chilean adventure on his website.
By Angus McNeice