Oxford Food Forum

Posted By Chris Kaplonski on Feb 6, 2015

Anthroenology is happy to announce we will be at the 4th Annual Oxford Food Forum, Culture, Food, & the Environment: New Perspectives on Food Sovereignty and Security’ on 2 May, 2015.  We will be presenting on: ‘Waiting for the consumer to catch up: sustainability and the taste of wine in Austria,’ as part of the ‘Policy, ethics and resilience’ panel. 


The paper abstract:

Waiting for the consumer to catch up: sustainability and the taste of wine in Austria

Austria proudly promotes itself as Europe’s ‘greenest wine producer’, and over 90% of its vineyards are said to be farmed sustainably. The forefront of the sustainability movement in Austria lies in the biodynamic growing of grapes and production of wine. Drawing on the work of the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, biodynamics brings together a concern for understanding a vineyard as a coherent, unified ecosystem and a spiritual approach. It is an approach that cannot wholly be explained by scientific measures, but is capable of producing outstanding wines.

What is most striking about Austria’s approach is that the logical ends of sustainable wine-making, biodynamic wines and their radical cousins, natural wines, have met wider acceptance among winemakers than wine consumers. Here it is not the case of the government hindering sustainability, but rather, leading the way. It is consumer acceptance that slows wider adoption of the most sustainable practices in the wine industry.

This presentation cuts across major panel themes, examining the impact of Austria’s sustainability policy upon biodiversity in the vineyard and suggesting a need for new understandings of the discourse surrounding food production. Although a luxury item, and not traditionally a focus of food security or sovereignty studies, wine offers a rich field for exploring the interplay between policy, environmental concerns and consumer tastes.

Austria makes a compelling case study for two additional reasons. First, biodynamics challenges Western models for sustainability, acting as an internal Other that has carried out a sustained critique of Western agricultural methods since the early twentieth century. Second, the focus in Austrian wine production has purposefully been not on ‘international’ grapes – such as Chardonnay or Pinot Noir – but on local varieties, seldom grown elsewhere. Sustainability in this sense, then, has a double meaning, both biological and a larger cultural heritage one.

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