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Reviewer meets Reviewed: Burgundy: The Global Story of Terroir

June 16 2022 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm


Thursday 16 June 2022 at 4.00-6.00pm (BST)

You can register for the Zoom event here: 


Burgundy: The Global Story of Terroir


The Royal Anthropological Institute is pleased to present ‘Reviewer meets Reviewed’, a discussion between author Prof Marion Demossier (University of Southampton) and reviewer Prof Rachel E Black (Connecticut College), chaired by Prof Deborah Reed-Danahay (University of Buffalo).

Drawing on more than twenty years of fieldwork, this book explores the professional, social, and cultural world of Burgundy wines, the role of terroir, and its transnational deployment in China, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand. It demystifies the terroir ideology by providing a unique long-term ethnographic analysis of what lies behind the concept. While the Burgundian model of terroir has gone global by acquiring UNESCO world heritage status, its very legitimacy is now being challenged amongst the vineyards where it first took root.


The book is published by Berghahn Books, who are kindly offering a discount to webinar attendees (discount code to be shared in the event).
More info here: https://www.berghahnbooks.com/title/DemossierBurgundy 



The review

Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol. 27, issue 3, September 2021, pp.709-710

Rachel Black


The complex world of Burgundy wine offers a fascinating case study of how local and global actors concurrently construct place and taste. The addition of the climats de Bourgogne to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2015 enabled Marion Demossier to build upon her previous research on the wine-growing culture in one of the world’s most celebrated wine-producing regions. Demossier illustrates how the UNESCO bid further pushed local actors to rearticulate their narratives about place and taste to fit with a changing global wine story. A native of Burgundy, she draws on over twenty years of research in the area to delve into the most recent cultural and economic changes that have shaped the wine region.

Burgundy shows its readers the ways in which wine is ‘good to think’, demonstrating that as French wine has become a cultural heritage good, the discourses surrounding wine further define local identities and cultures in an attempt to create value through the construction of authenticity and irreproducibility. The author shows how these complex dynamics have changed over time and that an intensification has occurred with the expansion of the high-end global wine trade. Through this case study, Demossier aims to show how wine and the example of Burgundy can deepen our understanding of the contemporary world. She also builds on the literature of taste of place and terroir to contextualize notions of terroir in a global economic context, exploring in particular the far-reaching economic implications of heritagization.

The book begins with both a succinct explanation of the complex Burgundy cru system and an overview of the historical and social construction of the concept of terroir. Here we come to understand the complexities of land ownership and the centrality of family lineages, the ‘social grammar of the landscape’ (p. 16). Chapter 2 delves into the changing role of wine-growers in the region, their knowledge, and the development of wine elites. Chapter 3 is a historically grounded account of the relationship between taste and place with an in-depth look at the various groups who have sought to shape and control the gustatory norms of wine. Chapter 4 turns back to the land and introduces the notion of a ‘winescape’. Drawing on the concept of taskscape, Demossier defines winescape as an enduring record of the relationship between labourers and land, and a ‘constant adjustment between economic value, taste and place’ (p. 117). While terroir is largely about locating value, she employs winescape to show how some wine-growers are invested in environmental stewardship and how this plays a part in the way they craft their historical narratives. Chapter 5 engages with wine-growers’ notions of nature and how this discourse resonates with consumers to move beyond the confines of other systems of quality control and sanctioned definitions of terroir. In chapters 6 and 7, Demossier considers the ways in which those producing and selling wine use the concept of terroir as a transnational marketing tool in Burgundy and New Zealand. Her insider view reveals the ways in which Burgundian elites engaged in heritage preservation in order to use the processes of globalization to buttress their position of power, thus obscuring the human labour, local politics, and production practices that play an important role in the construction of taste and place.

One of the ethnography’s strengths lies in the theoretical frameworks that are used to delve further into the construction of a good that circulates globally and whose value is closely associated with a heritage site. Another is the author’s long-term engagement with the region: this insider status offers a unique perspective on groups of people who are not easy to access. Demossier gives her readers glimpses of the inner workings of these worlds, yet the book would have benefited from deeper engagement with the voices of the research participants. There are a few moments when the reader is brought into the intimacy of the wine cellar or a stroll through a vineyard, but more of these moments would deepen the central narrative.

Burgundy will be of interest to wine educators and people working in the wine industry. It fills an important gap in the wine studies literature with its critical analysis of concepts such as terroir. For anthropologists interested in globalization, heritage preservations, and the politics of taste, this ethnography offers many new perspectives. I would recommend this book for both graduate and undergraduate teaching. The chapters stand well on their own and the volume as a whole offers an excellent example of long-term ethnographic research.



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June 16 2022
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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