Posts Tagged Recreation

Rosé Wine: Good or Great?

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Summer brought bliss and blush. Rosé wine towered wine displays everywhere. It has been enjoyable, right? You must admit it was fun. But can you honestly admit to your friends that you prefer blush to bizarre in wine. Or, are you ashamed of it? Is rosé good or great?

For the full article, see Rosé Wine: Good or Great? (html),  Color Magazine USA, Ed. 40, September 2011.

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Pop Culture & Wine

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Athletes, musicians and even adult film stars are tackling the terroir.  The “How Wine Became Modern” exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art last month focused on Design + Wine. It was a pop-culture typography of wine-bottle labels that portrayed everything from high fashion to playful low-brow. In movies, wine is very real, in celebrity culture it is very surreal, and in books it is wrapped in mystery, according to pop culture.

For the full article, see Pop Culture & Wine (html), Color Magazine USA, Ed. 38, June-July 2011.

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Rheinhessen: Rediscovered German Wine Country

When I was little, I wanted to become an explorer. I read all the first hand accounts of territorial conquests but concluded with some sadness that the world was already explored. It took me a while to learn that some things can be rediscovered. Rheinhessen is such a place. Riesling is such a grape.

See  Rheinhessen: Rediscovered German Wine Country (html), , Color Magazine USA, Ed. 37, May 2011.

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Wine With Your Trip?

Renzo Piano: The New York Times Building

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In today’s New York Times, wine writer Jonathan Mackay documents the dynamics of the online flash wine market such as Wines Til Sold Out, Wine Access, Cinderella WineWine.Woot or Lot18. With this emerging model, wine is heavily discounted because of innovative ways of procuring small batches of the good stuff in a limited time window.  Jonathan muses on the future of wine as a commodity  bundled with other stuff  (wine trips, meals, etc.).

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Wine Prices Slashed; This Offer Won’t Last

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Wine Wars

Wine used to be simple. You liked it or you didn’t. You could afford it or not. You could buy it in your local shop or you couldn’t. Easy. Wine is not so simple any more. Are you confident you drink the wine you believe in? The terroir police are after you. Drinking wine these days is an ideological choice. Do you buy global or local? Do you prefer US, international or a regional style? It’s time to decide what side you are on. Do you pledge allegiance to big business or with the small farmer? How do you even know which is which? This is complex, but you can crack it.

See Wine Wars (html): Terroir-torial disputes of Place, Politics and Profits, online now, including vintner interviews (Macari, Martha Clara), Trond’s Wine Picks (Lavoro Syrah, Bergen Road Macari Bordeaux blend, Black Coyote cab) and links to a small selection of sites that discuss how terroir matters to consumers.

A paper version is available for free in the streets of Boston and New York City.  Also, see this blog’s list of all Color Magazine Wine Columns.

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What is Sociology of wine?

 

Debating society s

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Sociology is not that easy to define, so a sociology of wine could mean many things.  This is, from my perspective, goodness. It presents opportunities. I want to share those opportunities. I would like lots of people to contribute. Let me  know what topics are most interesting.

First and foremost, sociology is about society. This might seem a bit simplistic, but it is in fact not. There is one problem. As I wrote in my Ph.D on What the Net can’t do (2002, p. 10):

Today, many others are ready to throw society out of the discussion. It seems like society is out of fashion.

That was eight years ago. I was talking about sociologists. Their problems were related to some observations regarding networks possibly replacing societies. That was slightly overblown.

I now have come to believe that there is a resurgence of faith in society among regular folks who would be the audience of this new effort. The effort of writing a good sociology of wine that makes sense to everybody regardless of background or preparation.

Networks are fine. They exist. Societies are fine. They exist. Communities are fine. They exist. We are not all bowling alone, as Robert D. Putnam wrote. End of story. Now, to the more interesting starting point: how to investigate wine, networks, communities, and society. But, since there might be doubters out there, I will take one more stab at explaining what society is all about.

Traditionally, sociology, starts with society. However, as the reluctant science it is, all notions are questioned. Let’s say for arguments sake, that there is such a thing as a ‘we” in all cultures. Let’s moreover assume that this “we” is some sort of community that in some way goes beyond the individual.

If we assume that what those “we” sentiments are, how strong they are, how they evolve and change becomes he subject matter of sociology. Surely, that is interesting. Also, it can provide a mountain of wisdom to the question of what role wine plays in our lives, how it became that way, and how it may change in the future.

Collectively, I would say, a group of citizens, consumers, vintners, or critics can change the way we understand wine. When has this happened? What are some social movements in wine? The Garagistes of Bordeaux come to mind. Occasionally, individuals come into play, inspiring a whole generation of thinking. For instance, what were the consequences of Robert M. Parker‘s decision to become a “consumer advocate” for wine in the 1970s? How long will it last? What are the alternatives?

In many types of sociological arguments, society denotes a relational, dynamic product of the continuing production of sense, purpose, unity, and meaning. If that sounds pretty academic, it is, since it was written by one. Nowadays, I would simply say: Society, community, family or friendship gives meaning to your life. This is a fact. Reflecting upon how each got its place in your life, how it evolved, is not only interesting, but essential.

Astonishingly, a beverage like wine plays into this in interesting ways. Let me give the example of socialization. Traditional sociological perspectives include describing the process of socialization into societies, groups and organizations.

In the case of wine, one could imagine investigating sub-groups within existing societal boundaries, such as Hispanics in America, and check how their relationship to wine has evolved. The focus would be on how wine is understood among this group. I would look into the cultural and historical context. I would look into families and the way wine is talked about. I would look at recent trends. I would look at the marketing of wine to Hispanics, or lack thereof.

As I previously have written about in my Color Magazine wine column, things are rapidly changing (see Becoming Rolando Herrera), as Hispanics are rapidly embracing wine both as producers and consumers. The question is why. If you are in the wine industry, you might also want to know how far it will go. These are issues that need to be looked into.

Studying demographic trends alone will not give you the answer. You need to ask people how they feel, look at purchasing decisions, marketing practices, industry developments. In short, this is a research topic in its own right.

However, as a sociologist of wine, one might equally well look into the creation of wine specific sub cultures, such as wine connoisseurs, wine critics, wine buyers, sommeliers, vintners, wine conglomerates, or even specific consumer groups as defined by lifestyle, geographical location, social aspirations, social status or otherwise.

Which of these approaches are the most interesting? Where will I find research is already carried out?

Sociology typically quite quickly turns to looking at the negative aspects of society, such as crime and deviance, social stratification (more so at the bottom than at the top), inequality and discrimination on the grounds of variables such as age, gender, status, race and ethnicity. With wine, one could imagine there are all kinds of problems. Indeed, lots of media attention, research and policy has this focus. In this vein, one might look at alcohol abuse among disadvantaged groups (or among elites for that matter) or gender or ethnicity stereotypes in wine marketing.

However, sociology may also be concerned with social systems at the macro level (family, polity, religion, economy and markets), or social change and social movements. In short, the choice is wide, and a sociology of wine must at least consider most of these aspects, but cannot be exhaustive on all.

What will I focus on? Where is there most data to work with? What is the most interesting issue to delve into? Where can I mobilize the wine community to help?

All of these questions remain open at the moment. How exciting. How rare of an opportunity. But also, what challenge, the most important of which being that sociologists who have looked into wine or wine culture are few and far between. As an example, one of the few web references to wine sociology include a study into the wine industry in North Carolina (see WFU sociologists track North Carolina wine industry).  Very exciting stuff, and I will use their data, but hardly representative of what goes on in the world of wine, right? Or, maybe not, just listen to this:

Their survey of 14 North Carolina winemakers in 2003 covered topics such as why they decided to make wine, how they learned to grow grapes, the size of their vineyards and the amount of wine bottled and sold.

These are all crucial questions that need to be asked of many communities around the world. One thing is certain, I will get many different answers.

I will start assembling a list of wine sociologists and works under a forthcoming “resources” menu bar.

  • Let me know if I should add something.
  • Let me know if you yourself should be listed.

Any input is useful at this stage. As of 5 October 2010, there are only 1,300,000 Google results for “wine” and “sociology” and only 1,160 results for “wine sociology”, of which few are relevant to our concern. Therefore, any emerging work on the topic is necessarily tentative. There are, of course, other data sources, and better searches yet to do. Lots of relevant stuff will not be labeled wine sociology. I have already started to look into it and will be posting references to bloggers, wineries, wine critics and more in the resources section.

The exciting part with pioneering a young field such as sociology of wine, is that there are fewer rules to follow, fewer vested interests to take into account, and fewer schools of thought to navigate. At least, it would seem so as I see it today. The naive investigator reveals his ignorance. Typically, lots of things will appear between the cracks. I would not be surprised to find dozens, maybe hundreds of wine sociologists, if I apply a broad definition. I would not be surprised to find dozens of books that fit the term. For sure, there are thousands of books that are relevant to look at. Let’s see.

For now, I would say that investigating issues surrounding the identity construction of people, places and their passions seems to be the most interesting approach to take.

Let’s see if there is enough data out there to support such an approach. For instance, one way of looking at is would be to say that there is the tension between globalization, localization and branding. The reason is, it is not as simple as to say that large, global conglomerates are bad and small, local producers are good. Both are involved in the production of identity, and both use their different cards (money, spin, terroir, market power, brand) differently.

Having gone through some examples of what a sociology of wine might be, I would now like to turn it over to you, the reader. In a forthcoming blog I will simply list a few topics and ask you to give them a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Fair? I think so.

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Why another book?

 

The clarification process can bring out the cl...

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Thinking about the Book’s Introduction, the first I needs to answer, I would imagine, is why write a book on this topic. Why, after all, white another book on wine? What could I possibly add to the flow of information on wine today, the hundreds of useful books published on the subject every year, the already numerous experts on the topic, the thousands of bloggers who produce hundreds of thousands of blog entries, maybe more?

Without having amassed all the bright answers one would usually come up with in a polished book, here are some initial thoughts:

  • A Sociology of Wine will not be a book on wine as such. It is more about the people.
  • The sociology of wine can tell us a lot about social change, identity, lifestyle, and the dynamics of markets.
  • A lot has happened since the world was divided into old world and new world–but as most cultures are old, and constantly reinvent themselves, or not, the distinction is meaningless.
  • My angle is quite specific: I want to portray the diversity of wine makers, wine growers and wine cultures.
  • I looked around and there does not seem to be a decent textbook out there–at least not a fun one.
  • I do have a Ph.D in sociology and despite a decade or so immersed in technology, I miss my roots.
  • I already wrote the management book Leadership From Below, so I know what it takes.
  • I have lots of stories, examples, inspiration beause of my role as wine columnist in Color Magazine, the premier US publication for multicultural professionals.
  • I have a unique perspective being Norwegian, a country that has absolutely nothing to defend in terms of wine culture. When Brits, French, Italians, Spaniards or Americans write about wine, they cannot but speak from their own vantage point. Of course, I will speak from mine, but it is not that of a wine culture. In fact, my family has been largely de facto teetotalers for various reasons.

Finally, I am so far, even though this may change, quite unconnected to the wine industry as such. This helps when you want to portray a full picture of what seems to be going on, or at least document what the players themselves say is going on. I do not work for a winery, a wine publication (I am the only wine writer at Color Magazine), or anything of that sort. In fact, I am barely a professional wine critic. I am simply somebody who likes wine and who discovered I had an opportunity to start writing about the people surrounding this pastime. I also happen to have some thoughts about how wine fits into a larger societal picture of changing consumption, lifestyle, technology and culture. There are few areas where the tensions between the global and the local, globalization and terroir, if you will, become so apparent.

These tensions produce possibly lasting changes in the fundamental social systems and institutions that make up society, such as the family, the economy, the state, and the increasingly important non state actors that seek to uproot the establishment, or indeed re-create it. In short, a fascinating set of issues with the realistic fringe benefit of a good glass of wine nearby when working them out.

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