Or, in a more academic vein: Conference papers, presentations, invited lectures and so forth related to wine. Listed in reverse chronological order (ie, most recent / upcoming first).
Natural truths: discourses on the nature of wine Part of the roundtable ‘Wine Mobilities: tensions in crafting wine stories,’ European Association of Social Anthropology conference, Stockholm, August, 2018.
Note: Unfortunately, due to a number of circumstances, I wasn’t able to attend the roundtable. I’m including this here for completeness, and it is an idea I want to pursue more in the near future.
Abstract: Despite the growing attention it has received throughout all spheres of the wine world –producers, industry, commentators and drinkers – the term ‘natural wine’ has no legal force, nor a universally agreed upon definition. The resulting fluidity of the concept is widely viewed as problematic. In this paper, however, I suggest that a more fruitful approach to understanding how ‘natural’ wine is talked about, debated and understood is to treat natural wine as a genre of discourse, or trope, rather than a rigid definition. By doing so, I argue, we are better positioned to interpret the myriad stances and meanings the term conveys, and its very ambiguity is revealed as a strength.
This paper then, approaches natural wine as a literary form to understand how the term circulates and the frictions (a la Anna Tsing) it generates and is subject to as it moves through the various realms of the wine world. Particular attention is drawn to the role ‘natural wine’ plays in foregrounding debates over what wine really is. Regardless of one’s view of natural wine, I suggest the term plays an invaluable role in furthering discussion on the philosophies reflected in wine production and consumption.
The truth about eating sustainably A panel discussion, University of Cambridge, The Festival of Ideas, 24 October 2017.
The realities of eating a diet that is healthy for us and healthy for the planet may not always match up to ideals. A multitude of factors influence what we eat, many of which are outside our direct control. From food prices and affordability, to social determinants like culture, attitudes and beliefs, determinants of diet are complex and interlinked. Is healthy, sustainable food for all really possible? A panel of experts discuss the issues.
Learning to taste: writing the senses in a glass of wine. The Worlds in a Wine Glass: Wine Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences, London, May 2016
Two sensory worlds collide in a glass of wine. One is the pleasure of the wine, the hedonistic world. The other is the analytical world of evaluative wine-tasting. This latter is a world of scales, pluses and minuses, and implicit comparisons. The two worlds reside in an often uncomfortable juxtaposition, yet remain closely linked. In this paper, I explore the creation of these two worlds, and in particular that of evaluative tasting. Based upon fieldwork conducted on wine industry training, this paper looks at the ways in which people are taught to standardise and align their senses through such training. In doing so, it draws attention to the construction of linguistic and sensory barriers and linkages between the two worlds. In exploring these connections, I highlight the processes through which we are taught, on the one hand, to divorce our senses from the world about them, and on the other, to reintegrate them in the disparate configurations of the two sensual worlds.
Cultivating terroir: a history of the present of sustainable winemaking. Consuming the World: Eating and Drinking in Culture, History, and Environment, Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, Munich, March 2016
Drawing upon fieldwork and interviews among Austrian winemakers, and wine sellers and consumers in Austria and the UK, this paper presents a history of the present of sustainable wine-making. In borrowing this phrase from Foucault, I seek to invoke not only the constitutive interactions between concepts of sustainability and terroir in wine (a Foucauldian genealogy), but to ask where this leads us as academics, wine-makers and wine consumers. In particular, I examine the ways in which approaches to sustainability not only can, but must, impinge upon understandings of terroir, particularly as wine-makers seek to reconcile, consciously or otherwise, the tension between individuality and terroir noted above.
The unproduction of wine: eliding technology in natural and post-modern wine making. Amsterdam Food History Symposium, January 2016
Often portrayed as a ‘natural’ product – the outcome of terroir (the ‘taste of place’), skilfully guided by the vigneron’s hand – wine is in fact a deeply technological product. In the US, for example, over 60 additives can be added to wine, without the consumer’s knowledge. To borrow Levi-Strauss’ classic terms of binary opposition, although wine is presented as ‘raw’ or natural, it is profoundly ‘cooked’ – a deeply cultural and technological product. This presentation proposes, through an anthropological reading of a small, but vocal, debate in the wine world, to invert the conference’s main theme. Rather than exploring the ways in which technology has been highlighted in food or drink preparation, I will focus on the ways in which it has been elided in the production of wine, asking how and to what ends is a technological product represented as natural?
Sensing ethical consumption: wine and sustainability Plumpton College, January 2016
When your senses – such as taste – come into conflict with your ethical beliefs, which one wins and why? Although a lot of attention has been given by activists, academics and others about ethical consumption – FairTrade, the Slow Food movement, organic farming and so forth – almost none has been given to the relation of consumption to our physical senses: taste, smell, sight, etc. This talk looks at this relationship through the lens of wine and wine-tasting, with a particular focus on low-intervention (natural) and biodynamic wines. I also use this case study as a way of exploring what a specifically anthropological focus can bring to our understanding of wine and its place in our lives.
Waiting for the consumer to catch up: sustainability and the taste of wine in Austria. Oxford Food Forum, May 2015
This presentation examines 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.