Accepted Paper:

Wine is alive: local notions and interpretations of terroir in Istria, Croatia  

Author:

Robin Smith (University of Oxford)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper problematizes local notions of terroir. Beliefs around wine production and the meanings Istrian winemakers give their wines are challenged by their exposure to international production standards and travel to international trade events.

Paper long abstract:

Winemakers in Istria, Croatia say that 'wine is alive'. This paper problematizes local cosmologies around the agency of wine and vineyards and how these cosmologies are challenged by winemakers' increasing exposure to western wine conventions and definitions of terroir.

Winemakers believe that wine communicates between barrels in cellars, where old wine may express feelings of jealousy towards newly harvested and fermenting wine through actions such as secondary fermentation, turning to vinegar, or becoming volatile. Grapevines may also communicate with wine to indicate their phase of growth and prepare the cellars for eventual harvest. Winemakers are attuned to such expressions and plan work in cellars and vineyards accordingly. They also hold beliefs around the influence of the moon and weather patterns on the lively activities of their wines, both during and after fermentation.

Wine is also said to be alive because of the micro-biological components allowed to exist in it. Indeed, wine that is pasteurized or otherwise stabilized through the use of chemicals is considered dead and thus unhealthy for human consumption.

Such beliefs are cast into new light as winemakers increasingly travel to international wine trade events and are exposed to modern production practices, and engage in conversation with visiting foreign tourists with their own wine knowledge.

However, Istrian traditional beliefs extend our understanding of local notions of terroir and what meaning winemakers give their wines. This paper reflects on these changing beliefs and how winemakers reconcile them against the demands of the international standards increasingly defining their industry.

Panel P086
Wine mobilities: tensions in crafting wine stories [Roundtable]