Towards an understanding of the importance of “place” in
wine culture
The influence of “place” is key when it comes to the exploration of how wine culture
is perceived in modern society. It appears in many guises and plays a crucial role in
how consumers form a relationship with particular products. At a macro-level,
consumers pay clear attention to country of origin when they are choosing a wine.
They have a tendency to relate the country’s wine with their experiences of that
country. Much has been written on the concept of country of origin (CoO) and how it
influences the marketing of products and in the early part of the chapter we examine
relevant literature in this area. There are other aspects of place that are peculiar to
wine. These include issues such as history, authenticity, provenance and security.
They apply to wine in a way that is very different to other product categories. Later in
the chapter we will investigate how these unique aspects impact on place and its
relationship in particular with wine , both in France and in the New World. In the
final part of the chapter we will deal with the Irish consumer’s relationship with place
and how this might influence potential wine attitudes in the future. In addition, we
will trace the close connection that can often develop with the land and with the story
of that land. “Terroir” is an important concept in this regard. It has long been
embedded in French wine culture. It helps to firmly tie wines to their places of origin
and such defined origins are then reflected in the taste of the particular wine Using the
example of stout, a beverage long associated with Ireland, we will introduce the
concept of “Irish Terroir”. It is our relationship with this specifically Irish “terroir”
concept that has the potential to assist in the future improvement of the bond between
French wine culture and the modern Irish consumer.
It is generally understood, through empirical observations and experiment, that
country of origin has a considerable influence on the consumer’s perception of a
product’s quality (Bilkey and Nes, 1982 p. 89). Bilkey and Nes refer to a particular
case to illustrate this point. They recount the story of a Puerto Rican shoe
manufacturer and his efforts to make his shoes more attractive in the market
place.They show how, having made his shoes in Puerto Rico, the shoemaker went to
the trouble of sending the shoes to New York City and back. He would then advertise
the shoes as having been imported from New York. Though the shoe quality hadn’t
changed, people’s perception of that product had because they were influenced by the
country of origin. There are similar examples much closer to home. In recent years
substantial media debate has been devoted to the subject of Ireland’s food labelling
laws. There has been a lot of criticism regarding the lack of origin labelling on Irish
restaurant menus, particularly with regard to chicken. According to SafeFood, the
promotional body responsible for food safety and health eating, 90% of Irish chicken
in the catering sector is sourced outside Ireland (Cadogan, 2012). Restaurateurs are
reluctant to identify its actual origin. Though perfectly safe, . as with Bilkey and
Nes’s shoe example, it is the emotional response to the “perceived” country of origin
that appears to be the determining factor in the client’s decision to purchase.
Much has been written over the years with regard to CoO. Roth and Diamantopoulos
cite Usunier (2006) who suggests that well over 1,000 publications have appeared
relating to the topic of country of origin and of these in excess of 40 have appeared in
peer reviewed academic articles (Roth and Diamantopoulos, 2008, p.1). Laroche
describes the country of origin area as “one of the most fruitful in terms of marketing
research” (Laroche et al, 2005, p 97). Many of these articles refer to a number of key
authors who have emerged since the mid 1960s and attempted to put some shape on
CoO theory. While an overall image of the country of origin construct has been
slowly emerging, there is still a lot of further development needed (Laroche et al,
2005, p 97). One of the earlier more influential articles on the topic refers to a study
carried out by Akira Nagashima on Japanese and US attitudes towards foreign
products (Nagashima, 1970). Although Nagashima only assessed how Japanese
businessmen perceived products made in France, it is interesting for the purpose of
this research that he suggested that French products were characterised by Japanese
businessmen as exclusive, handmade, and luxurious. It is also important to note that
when participants were asked to list the products that first come to mind when you see
certain “made in” names, wine invariably features in products associated with France.
This helps confirm France’s close association with the wine product. Wine as a
product does not feature in any of Nagashima’s other countries’ category even though
perceptions of both Italy and Germany are investigated. This offers us an insight into
the depth of recognised association between wine and France among different cultures
as far back as 1970.
This perception was somewhat mirrored in a much more recent study into Chinese
wine consumption which again highlighted that consumers in China clearly identified
with France’s intrinsic relationship with quality wine. The study established that
Chinese consumers had little or no knowledge of wines coming from any other
country (Liu and Murphy, 2007, p.108). In another recent study it was established that
CoO is a very important factor when the Chinese consumer evaluates wine and can
even prove more important than brand particularly when choosing a wine for a gift or
evaluating wine at special occasions (Hu et al, 2008, p.302). These findings are
further endorsed by Balestrini and Gamble in their 2006 study into the country of
origin effects in China (Balestrini and Gamble, 2006, p.407). It is important to note
here that China is of particular interest to the French wine sector when it comes to
perceptions regarding place, as it is a country that is relatively new to wine
consumption and presents enormous market potential in the future.
Consumer behaviour tends to be favourably influenced when the products being
purchased come from a country that enjoys a favourable image (Liu & Johnson, 2005,
p.87). However, it is also true that country of origin effects can be negative and thus
adversely affect a consumer’s willingness to purchase. Following the publication in
2006 of cartoon images of the prophet Mohammad in the Danish media, Danish
products were actively removed from the shelves of Middle Eastern stores (Fattah,
2006, cited in Roth and Diamantopoulos, 2008, p.1). French examples of similar
reactions based on an association with country of origin also exist. Francophobia is
defined by Amine as a consistent hostility toward government, culture, history or
peoples of France (Amine, 2008, p.402). In 2003 nationwide boycotts of French
cheese and wine occurred across the USA following France’s refusal to back the US
in the Iraq war (Drummond, 2003). The negative images associated with France as a
country of origin even led to the decision by American congress to rename the
“French fries” sold in government cafeterias “freedom fries” (The New York Times,
2006, p.16). These rather extreme examples illustrate that country of origin is very
important to consumers in terms of their purchase decision. This concept, in an ever
decreasing global marketplace, has gained particular ground with certain countries
according to Amine (2008, p. 418). So much so that a number of countries have
involved themselves in “country image management” to combat negative CoO
perceptions in global markets. Amine offers examples of France’s Blue Ribbon
Commission as well as Turkey, India and Kazakhstan who, the author says, are all
currently pursuing nation branding strategies. The above relates to a broad range of
products identified with those particular countries but Amine was keen to point out,
citing Kaynak and Cavusgil (1983) and Pappu et al. (2007), that a single country
image is not an absolute necessity for all classes of product (Amine, 2008, p.407).
Much of the research, however, tends to focus on how the country of origin of
individual products can be used by marketing strategists to develop appropriate plans
with regard to making these products attractive to consumers in different countries.
In the late 1990s Lampert and Jaffe suggested that the vast majority of CoO studies
carried out were to some degree static in assessing the effect on consumer’s
perceptions of a products origin (Lampert and Jaffe, 1997). They argued that we need
to consider that country of origin image changes over time in relation to the product’s
particular life cycle: hence the CoO is a dynamic rather than a static construct. This,
they suggest, has important implications for marketing strategies in the future. While
the depth of CoO research available is impressive, clarity on the area is difficult to
establish. Johansson refers to this “empirical ambiguity” where he quotes arguments
for and against the influence of CoO with regard to consumers’ perceptions of the
product (Johansson, 1988). He presents three arguments in the negative, illustrating
the lack of importance that can be attached to CoO. Firstly he says that as consumers
get more information about product attributes, the importance of CoO lessens.
Secondly, as products manufactured in countries display better quality overall, the
differentiation presented due to CoO becomes less important. Finally with the advent
of the “global village” concept, national borders will tend to become less and less
important, thus reducing CoO influence. Johansson uses these arguments and the fact
that it is difficult to defend against them as a platform from which to develop his own
theoretical framework which he calls “An Integrative Framework.” This model
attempts to explain the country of origin process in flowchart form. Johansson’s
approach centres on a consumer’s propensity to use a “made in” label. When the
consumer’s propensity to use same is high it is expected that the label can influence
the customer in cognition terms either by inference or proxy, by “affect” in
establishing whether they like the country in question or to help determine the social
acceptability of the country of origin through the “made in label”. Such a model, he
suggests, needs to be empirically tested in later research. Johansson’s view is mirrored
to some extent by Parameswaran and Pisharodi in that they insist that the potential for
using country of origin image as a marketing tool is limited by a lack of
understanding caused in part by “variations in definition, conceptualisation of
components and measurement” (Parameswaran and Pisharodi, 1994). They suggest
that as further research is carried out CoO image can begin to be viewed as a
multifaceted construct. These facets can be clearly interpreted and put to good use by
marketing specialists. The authors stress that while there is some evidence that plays
down the importance of the CoO construct, a product’s country image can be a
definite advantage in terms of enhanced sales. They cite Papadopoulos (1993) who
posits that if the McDonald’s brand name is worth millions, as is widely
acknowledged, then what must Germany’s brand image be worth? (Parameswaran
and Pisharodi, 1994, p.44). They are keen to point out the importance of the CoO
construct and its useful role for multinational marketers. They emphasise that one of
the reasons many marketers don’t use country of image constructs is that CoO is
“culture laden”. Many managers are not trained or comfortable dealing with cultural
issues. Another reason for lack of use might also be that the relationship between a
brand and its CoO can be more distant that its relationship with the firm, store or
advertising associated with it. It is important to note here that when it comes to CoO
and wine, the relationship between the brand and the CoO is often very well defined
and clear. An example of this would include the “Piat d’Or brand” and the “Les
Français adorent le Piat d’Or” campaign. Non-French examples also abound such as
the Thomas Hardy wine campaign and the association that is made between Hardy’s
experiences in Australia, historically, and the sale of that particular brand now.
Interestingly Han and Terpstra stressed in their findings that CoO stimuli were
actually found to have more powerful effects than brand name when it came to
consumer perceptions of quality (Han and Terpstra, 1987). Citing Jacoby et al (1971),
Monroe (1976) and Jacoby et al (1977), Han and Terpstra indicate that this idea
contrasts with the commonly held view that brand name is dominant when it comes to
perceptions of product quality. This whole area of brand and its association with CoO
presents further opportunity for discussion when we focus on the wine products
relationship with place later in this chapter.
Roth and Diamantopoulos (2008) also discuss the important role CoO plays in
influencing consumer behaviour. They draw a distinction between the conventional
CoO term and what they see as the more useful CoI term (Country of Origin Image).
They offer the previously mentioned example of the 2006 Danish cartoons that proved
offensive to the Muslim community and that led to Danish products being taken from
the shelves of many Middle Eastern countries. They note, however, that despite the
importance of the CoI construct there is little consensus among researchers in how
they approach the topic. In their comprehensive article, the authors strive to undertake
a full review of current conceptualisations. They propose an integrated CoI
framework which may fuel future research in the area. Following an overview of key
definitions from relevant authors, Roth and Diamantopoulos summarise in tabular
form key conceptualisations of country image over the years. They proceed to
propose their own integrative framework 4 figure model, each determined by a
situational context. Interestingly, part D of their integrative model deals with
experiential hierarchy, which is based on hedonic consumption and uses a wine
example to explain why some consumers might simply prefer Italian to French wine
without having a clear reason to explain their choice. It is suggested that such a belief
might simply stem from the “experience” of consuming the Italian wine product and
thus the consumer’s assumption that Italian wine simply tastes nice, thus fueling the
impression that Italy must be a good country or “place” for wine production.
Such a model may present opportunities to develop markets for wine simply
through the consumer’s experiential exposure to the French wine product at its most
simple and accessible best. Through this basic encounter, consumers can form a
favourable view of French wine through straightforward experience rather than the
influence of indepth erudite knowledge. One of the potential problems with the
consumer’s attitude to French wine can be the “impression” that the French wine
product is difficult to understand and therefore somehow less enjoyable. These
impressions stem from the sometimes difficult terminology and lack of clarity often
associated with French wine labels. Terms such as Appellation Côntroleé, Grand Cru
and others, along with unclear grape varieties, put new and unfamiliar customers ill at
ease. There are also undeniable undertones of snobbery associated with understanding
French wine and the caricature of the manifestly superior French sommelier is
familiar to many. It may well be that part of the successful new world strategy in
marketing their wines over recent years created the exact opposite impression. For
example, Wine Australia was different to Old World competitors in that it became
associated with a wine that could be appreciated on taste factors alone. It was
accessible to more than just the supposedly “educated palate”. These upfront, fruitdriven, flavoursome drinks
presented consumers with a favourable view of the
Australian wine and subsequently led to the positive image of Australia as a wineproducing country.
In a recent BBC 4 documentary, Hazel Murphy, the woman charged with the task of
promoting unknown, and in some cases ridiculed, Australian wine in the UK during
the 1980s, referred to that exact premise (Chateau Chunder: When Australian wine
changed the world, 2012). According to wine writer Robert Joseph, who participated
in the documentary, the way Hazel promoted Australian wine was different in that she
got the winemakers to go out and physically pour the wine for the customers to taste.
Over the space of less than a decade, Hazel Murphy and her team poured Australian
wine for over 250,000 people in venues ranging from food and wine exhibitions to
agricultural shows and sporting events. (, 2012)
Such extensive exposure to wine tasting was relatively rare in those days.According
to Joseph, the French, Italian and Spanish wine makers did not pour their wines, as
they did not trust their customers. Tremendous success was achieved by allowing
consumers to experience the wine’s taste first hand. Because the style of Australian
wine was and is very much based on simple upfront varietal fruit flavours once
experienced the wine provedappealing. Because it was clearly recognised by country
of origin rather than by specific region, the strategy of getting out there and pouring
Australian wine led to the clear association between these newly emerged accessible
fruit-driven wines and their “place”...
Paul Chao and Pola Gupta have developed an interesting multiple cue notion
which suggests that although it is accepted that consumer perceptions ultimately
influence the consumer’s product choice, some studies nevertheless indicate that there
are a variety of ways that CoO effects on consumer demand can be moderated. This is
done by the use of things such as warranties, store prestige, price and material
contents of the product etc. (Chao and Gupta, 1995). Though Chao’s studies referred
to CoO effects on consumer demand for cars, this idea raises interesting questions
also in relation to wine culture. It suggests that the consumer’s impressions of the
CoO may possibly be altered by a range of other multiple cue factors. A consumer
who believes French wine to be complex, difficult and in some cases inferior to what
they are used to may, through other factors, moderate their negative opinion of French
wine. Obviously a warranty can’t be given, as in Chao’s car example; however, it may
offer credence to the theory that positive wine reviews, wine labelling regulation and
recommendations can do a lot to influence consumer behaviour. Similarly, things
such as price may also play a role in moderating a consumer’s negative opinion of a
particular product due to its country of origin.
Manske and Cordua in 2004 reviewed 10 months of wine sales in the Houston, USA
area, exploring whether sommeliers can affect wine sales in a restaurant. They
concluded through their examination of 14 restaurants that employing a wine steward
had a very significant positive effect on increasing wine sales (Manske and Cordua,
2005). It could be posited that the influence of the sommelier within the service
setting has a similar effect to that of the warranty and prestige referred to by Chao
above and that in this regard such effects might obviate a negative CoO impression. In
a practical restaurant wine service situation, the sommelier might encourage a
customer to try a wine from a particular country despite the customer’s initial
negative opinion of that particular CoO. Chaney carried out a comparative analysis of
wine reviews in 2000 and established that New Zealand wines received a lot of print
coverage, much more so than their market share might merit(Chaney, 2000). This,
Chaney suggests, encourages consumers to indulge in what she refers to as
“experimental” or “promiscuous” purchases. Again with reference to Chao’s
moderating factors of warranty and prestige, these print inches and recommendations
potentially have a similar moderating effect on consumers who might otherwise not
be predisposed to liking a particular wine’s CoO. Bilkey and Nes in their seminal
work on CoO also refer to what they term “risk reducers”. They refer to greater
perceived risks that might be associated with lesser developed countries with regard to
delivery, quality concerns and so on(Bilkey and Nes, 1982). They argue that risk
reducers might include guarantees by third parties, independent tests and a myriad of
other factors and that these can reduce risk perceptions based around CoO. This
further emphasises the importance of the information surrounding particular wine
products and is something which will be further discussed in the project when dealing
with the role of information and knowledge regarding French wine culture.
Further exploration of the importance of CoO to the wine sector, particularly in an
Irish context, lies in the research conducted by Keown and Casey (1995). Their study
focused on the Northern Irish wine market where they examined among other things:
 What customers look for when buying wine
 What factors influence their wine selection
 Whether or not consumers experiment with wines from different countries
Interestingly, the majority of the sample identified country of origin as the most
important factor when choosing a bottle of wine (Keown and Casey, 1995). We
should note however that this research was carried out in 1995, a time when Australia
and other New World wine producing countries were only beginning to make an
impact on global wine markets.
Felzensztein et al (2004) also offer an excellent overview of literature on CoO and
wine. The authors describe those whom
they consider to be the most relevant
contributors to research on consumer behaviour specifically in the wine sector. They
suggest that the effect of CoO with regard to wine may indeed form the fifth element
of the traditional marketing mix and that CoO has an extremely important role to play
in the future development of marketing strategies within the wine industry. They are
nevertheless also keen to stress that CoO, though important, is but one of the factors
which governs consumer behaviour in relation to wine. They would thus be in
agreement with previously mentioned authors who suggested that there are multiple
cues that influence people’s considerations when deciding whether or not to purchase
a product.
Following extensive case study analysis and using cross case analysis, Beverland,
(2004 through his examination of the luxury wine market, identified six themes or
brand components that one would associate with a luxury brand. They include the
Value Driven
(Beverland, 2004, p.457)
Of the six components identified by Beverland above, three are very much tied into
wine and its relationship with place. They are culture, history and product integrity.
All three form a very important structure upon which we potentially might base a
marketing strategy for French wine in the future.
At a macro level, country of origin is
crucial to how modern society perceives the
French wine product, but a wine’s national heritage is only the first layer of what is a
very complex relationship with “place”. More than any other product, a wine’s place
of origin can have a dramatic impact on its enjoyment and consumption and forms the
basis of a complex oenological argument that has led to much debate among
oenophiles down through the years. We are of course referring to the influence and
importance of “terroir”. Before we explore “terroir” in more detail, we need to first
stipulate why wine is of itself such a unique product. Its association with place is
fundamental to that uniqueness. Felzenstein et al (2004, p.74) highlight the fact that
much of the CoO research carried out over the last 40 years is for the most part
specific to tangible and durable products . They refer to wine as ‘the most
differentiated of all agriculturally based products’(2004, p.75). It is this differentiation
that makes the concept of place so important to perceptions of wine culture.
Different countries produce different styles of wine
More than any other beverage category, a wine’s taste can be defined by its place of
origin. Why does a glass of French white wine taste different to a German white
wine? Both are made from similar base ingredients, are processed in similar ways and
yet most casual wine drinkers can tell a marked difference between the two, even in a
blind tasting situation. The German product stresses the fruit/acid balance rather than
the alcohol and the purity of the grape rather than the derived flavours such as those
that oak aging brings” (Larousse Encyclopaedia of Wine, 2001, p.313). Proponents of
“terroir” will suggest that it is the soil, topography and climate that make all the
difference. Germany’s cooler climate is a marginal influence in that it is at the very
limit of where wine can be competently produced. As such, its grapes have less sugar,
in many cases leading to higher acid and lower alcohol wines. French wine, on the
other hand, can be perceived as being somewhat closed in flavour terms, less up front
and much more representative of “terroir”, with fruit being very important, but just
one of a number of factors which make the wine complex and interesting. Italian
wines are often perceived as rustic in nature with high acidity and mellow flavours.
There are few beverage product categories where such differences are as marked.
Each country’s wine has characteristics determined by its origin. There are of
course many exceptions but when we discuss place and wine at a national identity
level we tend to be dealing in the general. When one drills down to a wine’s regional
relationship with place, the point is further emphasised. Within a specific country
different regions can offer different wine products. Even though they all fall under the
common category of wine, they are in many ways very different products. For
example a Sauternes and a St Emilion are both wines from Bordeaux, but they are
very different in terms of style, taste and even food categories they might be matched
Complexities in communicating “place” to the consumer
Previously we referred to how much the “made in Germany” brand might be worth
(Parameswaran and Pisharodi, 1994, p.44). In the vast majority of tangible products,
the “made in” identity, though possibly heavily promoted, would not be overtly
visible. By its nature, wine packaging has the potential to convey “made in” to its
potential market. Everything from the bottle shape and the bottle colour to the style of
label and the writing font can inform the consumer with regard to the product’s
country or place of origin. The equivalent analogy in the motor industry would be a
car with “Made in Germany” very prominently displayed on the main body of the
vehicle. Of course the wine’s place of origin is identifiable to varying degrees
depending on the consumer’s level of knowledge; however, we can’t deny that the
bottle, the label and the imagery in many cases all reflect that place of origin. To
illustrate the point look at the following three bottles of wine:
Each wine is labelled distinctively and its association with “place” is immediately
recognisable to varying degrees through its packaging. Interpretation of the wine’s
origin is however based to some degree on the consumer’s level of knowledge,
particularly in relation to the German and French offerings. German Mosel wines are
traditionally sold in the tall green bottles historically associated with that region. The
clearly German sounding grape variety “Riesling” is prominently displayed on the
label as is the term Spatlese which is an indication of quality. The label itself is
decorated in stereotypical German style with large amounts of amber and gold floral
embellishment and indications of historical images or crests which again are typical of
German labelling. The French wine is from the Loire region and the bottle style and
shape reflects the typicity of that area. Its label is less ornate than the German
example and “Sancerre”, the place the wine originates from, is by far the most
prominent thing on the label. There is no mention of the grape variety, but
knowledgeable consumers will know that white Sancerre is made from 100 %
Sauvignon Blanc. The AOC is displayed in small lettering beneath the region and
again only with a certain amount of wine knowledge can this be fully understood.
Once again the wording on the label will indicate that the wine is French but as with
the German example, further consumer knowledge is required to fully “decipher” the
packaging. By complete contrast to the other two, the Australian example allows the
English speaking consumer to easily
understand the label with full explanation
supplied in English. The grape variety is prominently displayed, the brand/maker
clearly visible and a typically simple label image of a kangaroo is expressing the
wine’s place of origin. Interestingly, the Australian bottle above is much less place
specific than either the French or the German example once appropriate level of
knowledge is given to the consumer.
The wine-food relationship
Wine has a unique co-dependant gastronomic relationship with food. In certain
situations choice of wine consumption is based on the consumption of a completely
separate product. Though this relationship can also exist in other product groups, it is
much more evident in the wine-food relationship. The vast majority of wines
produced today are sold to accompany food in an on-trade restaurant or an off-trade
home situation. One of the key cues used when matching appropriate wines to food
revolves around regionality and place. There is a natural tendency for consumers to
match French wines with French food, Italian wines with Italian foods, Spanish wines
with Spanish food, etc. In some cases the purchase and consumption of one product
will determine the purchase of another product. This proves a particularly important
consideration when we examine regional wine purchases. Some regional wines are so
closely associated with regional food products that their association may hinder their
appeal when attempting to market to a larger audience. Traditionally German wines
were meant for drinking on their own and were notoriously difficult to match with
food. For many years they have had a reputation for being too sweet to form
appropriate matches and sales have suffered as a consequence. Therefore there has
been a move away from medium wines in Germany to a drier product that suits
simultaneous food and wine consumption. Fielden (2005, p.85) suggests that,
historically, German wine was meant as a social drink not usually taken with food.
This led to Germans producing a drier product since the 1980s in order to specifically
target the food/wine market. It could be argued that, in the Irish and UK market in
particular, part of the reason why Australian and other New World wines have thrived
over the last decade is exactly because these countries are not associated with the
cuisine of any one “place” and offer a plurality of culinary influences.
The unique impact of the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) system
French wine is an agricultural product and it is in many ways similar to other
agricultural outputs. It is the influence of the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC)
system that makes French wines unique. If a wine has been awarded a particular
AOC, then it will have undergone certain rigourous tests. Every Appellation
Contrôlée area in France is regulated by the government body known as the Institut
national de l'origine et de la qualité (INAO). In order to achieve AOC status,
vignerons must adhere to certain rules and regulations. These govern such things as
grape varieties permitted, yield, location of plots, vinification methods for example.
Marion Demossier suggests that the ‘AOC system helped fix the mythical image of an
historical terroir producing a wine with a taste unchanged since time immemorial’
(Demossier, 2011, p.690). Implementation of the AOC system, therefore, suggests
that a wine from one defined area or AOC with entitlement to one particular
classification is a very different product, often with a different target market, to a wine
from another classification. Because of strict AOC regulations, these wines may be
perceived as reflecting, through taste, the different terroir they are associated with.
Amy Trubek (2008, pp.67-68) offers us a good example of this when she quotes
James Wilson in her book The Taste of Place. Wilson used champagne as an example
to illustrate the influence of terroir:
In his discussion of champagne and the region where this sparkling wine is made, he
argues that the presence of chalk in the soil is what makes French champagne
distinctive. Describing the taste of terroir you experience when you sip Dom
Pérignon, he writes “Somehow, the chalk of Champagne soils imparts an élan to
‘true’ champagne that is not duplicated elsewhere in the world” (Trubek citing
Wilson, 2008, pp.67-68)
The élan referred to by Wilson is an esoteric description of a quality inherent in true
champagne that links this particular sparkling wine to its place. Whether such a
quality actually is detectable is to some degreea moot point. Wilson and other
connoisseurs are of the belief that it does and to them a true reflection of terroir is
evident in the taste of Dom Pérignon
The influence of AOC is a very important consideration, particularly when we are
dealing with how wine relates to “place”. Two wines can be very different in terms of
quality and indeed price. This difference may impact on how marketing approaches
can be developed for these individual products. Felzenstein, Hibbert and Vong citing
Thode and Maskulka (1998) suggest that if geographic origin offers a quality
differentiation then the producer has an attribute to his/her product that can’t be
readily replicated (Felzenstein, Hibbert and Vong, 2004, p.73). The unique quality
that is imparted by the influence of terroir and then verified by the awarding of AOC
status is one of the things that differentiates French wine from other agri-products.
The role of vintage
The fact that a wine can be linked to a particular time period is another unique
concept in terms of agricultural products. It is an important point of differentiation
within the overall wine product category. There are relatively few products outside
the beverage sector that use vintage as an indicator of differentiation. Spirit beverages
such as whiskey and cognac often offer indications of minimum aging but wine
vintages offer a defined reference point in time that when tied to place gives a strong
indication of quality. Andrew Jefford, in his 2008 book, expresses the view that
vintage is supremely important in the wine world but really irrelevant for other fruit
crops (Jefford, 2008, p.63) He offers the example that Château Latour 2003 is twice
the price of Château Latour 2002. He suggests that opening a 1978 Barolo from
Northern Italy would be a joy, but opening a 1977 Barolo would make him very
nervous. Vintage is a crucially important variable when investigating wine’s
relationship with place and ultimately a key factor that marks the wine product out as
being unique.
The lack of homogenisation in the old world wine product
Wine producers pride themselves on the originality of their product. Because of the
influence of a number of important factors the taste of a wine differs because of
association with defined “place” and “time”. Factors which contribute to this
variability include:
Environmental influences
These include variables such as soil and nutrient make-up, aspect of the vineyard
slope, etc.
The climate and the weather.
Depending on the vineyard location the climate can be maritime or continental in
type. It can be influenced by proximity to large bodies of water or to mountains. In
oenological terms vignerons may refer to the macro (the regions climate), the meso
(the vineyard’s climate) right down to the micro (the climate of the individual vine).
When we refer to the weather we are referring to the annual weather conditions that
have a profound effect on each vintage and ultimately how we market that particular
year’s product.
Viticultural practices
These can cover any contributory variances that occur in the vineyard as opposed to
the winery. Issues such as the varieties planted, pruning and training methods,
handling of pests/diseases, canopy management at a micro level, green pruning
techniques, mechanisation levels, harvesting techniques and timing come into play
Vinification practices
This refers to everything else that happens to the grapes once they have arrived into
the winery and provide ample opportunity for the vigneron to influence the finished
temperatures/timings/vessels employed, use of technology or chemicals, bottling,
maturation, influence of oak, and even whether or not to use malolactic fermentation
Because of the variability associated with all of the factors above, wine is unique in
that it can prove somewhat unpredictable and inconsistent. Many wine producers,
particularly in the Old World, are keen to exploit differences that occur from one year
to the next. Therefore, depending on these factors, different vintages can present
different attributes. In many instances the consumer is purchasing a product which he
or she may know little about in terms of quality. In some cases, one can only use
external cues in order to assess the quality of the product. Such cues include the
country of origin, the label, the bottle and the brand. Often interpreting such cues
involves having a certain level of understanding, particularly when it comes to French
wine. It’s difficult to imagine another food or drink product upon which consumers
take such a risk. So much of the enjoyment of the wine is tied up in the colour, the
aroma and the taste of the product and yet until it is purchased, brought home and the
cork removed, the consumer will never really know what the wine is like. One might
argue that the New World, and in particular Australia, used this very fact in order to
provide the consumer with a consistent and homogenous product over the past
decade. Major wine brands filled the knowledge gap through clearer labelling and
consumer information. With experience, consumers began to understand and favour
particular grape varieties. The wine product in general became much more consistent
through more advanced production methods and new technologies. Less variable
climatic conditions in the New World also helped contribute to a consistency and a
homogeneity that was difficult to match. One might reasonably ask whether there is
any marked taste difference between a Jacob’s Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 and a
Jacobs Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2011. If not, where is the value of the vintage?
With the explosion of New World wines for once consumers actually knew what was
in the product they were purchasing. However, as consumer knowledge and wine
familiarity have increased there may now be more of a market for products that better
reflect the regions and indeed the vintages within those regions. This concept will be
further explored in the further sections of the research.
All three of the aforementioned place-related components identified by Beverland
have been used to a greater or lesser extent in marketing strategies for New World
wines in recent years. Examples of their use abound in terms of brand advertising
associated with Australian wines. A good example of this is the Thomas Hardy wine
campaign. Australian wine giant BRL Hardy embarked in 2008 on a 12 million pound
advertising campaign in the UK, the biggest
ever for a wine brand
(, 2008). It is very interesting that BRL Hardy relied heavily
on the use of themes such as heritage, culture and product integrity as the
cornerstones of their campaign. Research carried out by the company in 2006 found
that the story behind Hardy’s wine was “very emotive”, with a view to targeting
customers ((, 2008). Troy Christensen, Constellation
Europe’s President says that the campaign aim is to reinforce the heritage of Hardy’s
(http:// 226271.html, 2008). The advertisement tells the
story of Thomas Hardy’s arrival in Australia in 1853, which ultimately led to the
development of Hardy’s wine. It heavily emphasises place, history and heritage and
forms an association in the consumer’s mind between the arrival of Hardy in Australia
and the bottle of Hardy’s wine. It closely links the two, inferring that Hardy’s is a
relatively small operation, closely tied to its root as a family business. This offers an
interesting endorsement of the power of place, particularly when we consider that
Hardy’s is now part of world wine giant Constellation. Today, Constellation Brands
have gross sales of more than $5.2 billion annually. They operate in more than 60
production facilities, have 9,200 employees worldwide and sell to markets in North
America, South America, Europe, and the Asia/Pacific region (Boyer King, 2008).
In 2008 a debate was held at Lords Cricket Ground , London entitled: “Can France
reassert itself as the number one supplier of wine to the UK market?” (France under
one roof: Podcast 2008) Two speakers at this seminar, Justin Howard-Sneyd MW
(Master of Wine) and Tim Atkin MW, both stressed the importance of heritage,
cultural links and provenance when it comes to French wines.
suggested that, the French wine industry has never capitalised on their heritage
properly. He uses the example of the South African, Australian and Californian wine
tourism experiences to contrast against the French experience He suggests that,
outside of very prominent areas like Champagne, the general cellar door experience in
France leaves a lot to be desired and lags far behind New World equivalents. There
exists, therefore, a clear opportunity from a place perspective to promote French wine
culture and heritage through wine tourism in the future.. This concept of using the
heritage and provenance embedded in French wine as the basis for important
marketing approaches is one that presents a variety of opportunities and it will be
discussed in greater depth later in the project.
Irish Terroir!
Irish people have a unique relationship with place and identity. Forged over many
years, our history dictates that as a nation we have a strong affinity with the land.
Perhaps the origins of such feelings lie in our colonial past, the dominance of
agriculture in our economic make up or the poverty, death and destruction of the
famine and as such are beyond the scope of this project. Whatever the origin, we have
arrived at a situation where land and property have become national obsessions.
According to the recent 2011 census, 69.7% of Ireland’s population own their own
home. Although this has dropped considerably since the 2006 census, it nonetheless
indicates that Ireland’s desire to own rather than to rent remains high (Central
Statistics Office, 2011). References to “links with place” in Ireland’s cultural heritage
have always been prominent. Examples such as John B Keane’s play The Field (1965)
help illustrate not only our strong links to rural history, but also our cultural
connection to the land. In her article ‘The Unappeasable Hunger for Land in John B.
Keane’s The Field’, Rosa Gonzalez foregrounds her analysis of the play with
examples of how the Irish have been inextricably linked to a sense of place down
through the centuries:
Together with religion, land has been one of the most potent symbols of unity
and conflict in the history of Ireland. As an eminently rural country, the
dependence upon the land created among the native Irish a keen sense of
place, a spiritual bond with the soil that sustains them, whereas the
transference of land ownership, concomitant with centuries of colonial
occupation and landlordism, gave rise, from the seventeenth century, to
widespread resentment and social division.
(Gonzalez 1992, p.83)
Gonzalez goes on to explore the Irishman’s “intense relationship with his physical
environment” and uses what Declan Kiberd (1984) referred to as the myth of ‘the
noble tiller of the soil’ to illustrate perceptions that existed in early 20 th century
Ireland of:
The idealisation of the ancient wisdom of the stoical and enduring peasant,
uncontaminated by commercialism and embodying the most essential and
unchanging element of Irish identity
(Gonzalez, 1992, p.84)
Interestingly Kiberd’s peculiarly Irish myth of the “noble tiller of the soil” is
somewhat mirrored by Marion Demossier (2011, p.690) when she explains that the
‘mythical image of an historical terroir producing a wine unchanged since time
immemorial’ has led to the creation, in French wine culture, of the ‘image of the
wine-grower as the embodiment of traditional agrarian values and as a guarantor of
quality’. She goes on to cite Amiel (2004) who describes the wine-grower as “a
conduit of nature”. The use of a description like this resonates with a Douglas Hyde
quote that Gonzalez uses which describes Irish people thus: ‘They are men and
women of the toughest fibre. They have been for generations fighting with the sea,
fighting with the weather, fighting with the mountains’ (Brown, 1993, cited in
Gonzalez, 1992, p.84).
The GAA, Ireland’s most prominent national sporting organisation, is place-based in
a way that other sports are not. Teams originate from individual parishes and rules
dictate that players cannot play for teams other that the one associated with the
player’s home parish. Support for local and county teams is drawn only from
immediate hinterlands and not like other sports such as soccer where players are
selected for particular teams regardless of the player’s place of birth /origin. This Irish
obsession with place may very well form one of the key bases for potential marketing
approaches when it comes to French wine. It can be argued that it is typically French
wines that have a unique association with very defined regions, districts and indeed
individual parcels of land through their historic Appellation Contrôlée system. This
relationship might prove useful as one of the tools that can feed into future strategies
particularly aimed at marketing French wines into Ireland. O’ Boyle (2011, p.143163) discusses the Smithwicks “Locals” marketing campaign in his book New
Vocabulary Old Ideas: Culture, Irishness and the Advertising Industry. Smithwicks, a
particularly Irish beverage, is marketed on the basis of its association with a particular
rural identity. Interviewing the brand manager responsible for the campaign, O’ Boyle
says: ‘This suggests from the outset, space and place - and their relationship with
subjectivity, identity and memory - were important dimensions of the campaign. Such
ideas have considerable currency in Ireland’ (O’Boyle, 2011, p.149). The author goes
on to cite Murray (2007) who suggests that ‘despite the combined process of
globalisation, de-territorialisation and cosmopolitanism, the influence of location on
identity remains particularly strong in Ireland’.
Of all Irish alcoholic beverages, it is stout, and in particular Guinness, that is perhaps
most gastronomically associated with Ireland. The stout market over the years has
formed a strong association between the product and the place. Even elements of
traditional French terroir, it could be argued, might be applied to the production of
stout in Ireland. These could include the use of local Irish barley, the particular water
used and the historical production methods. There has been a long held urban myth
that Guinness is in fact made with water from the iconic River Liffey and that this is
what makes Dublin Guinness taste so good. Though untrue it nonetheless furthers the
argument that Guinness stout has a perceived terroir-based heritage.
Even Queen Elisabeth and Prince Philip seemed to be taken by the Guinness
mythology during their historic visit in June. The prince asked a question that is on
the lips of tens of thousands of visitors “Is it made from Liffey water?” Bielenberg
Though not strictly regulated as with the AOC system in France, it can be reasonably
suggested that the product is a reflection of its place and hence aspects of “terroir”
apply. Place-allegiance typically associated with regional French wine culture is also
evident in the Irish stout market. Ireland has three main brands of stout: Guinness,
Murphy’s and Beamish. Their production and consumption is divided along territorial
lines. Murphy’s and Beamish are produced and typically consumed in the south west
of the country, whereas Guinness is perceived by the majority as a Dublin/East Coast
beverage. Similar divides are more obvious in French wine culture where regions are
typically loyal to local wines from nearby regions.
An interesting example of the importance of place was the 2008
announcement of the closure of the historic Beamish and Crawford Brewery in Cork,
Ireland and the upset that accompanied the announcement (O’Halloran, 2008). Beer
had been brewed on the site by Beamish since 1792. At the time, the survival of the
stout, once its production had been moved from its historic place, was called into
question, especially since a rival Cork brand Murphy’s was already being brewed at
the new site. It appears that the decision to move production of Beamish from its
original historical site to the larger Murphy’s Brewery in Cork did little to damage its
sales (Hennessy, 2009) but it remains to be seen whether the decision to close the
historical site impacts on national and international sales in the long term. Given that
the product will still be brewed in the Cork area, the breaking of the association
between product and its historical place is unlikely to prove detrimental. The 2012
decision by Heineken Ireland to incorporate a brewery museum into the
redevelopment of the Beamish brewery site (Roseingrave, 2012) offers further
indication of how important the brewery location is to the product’s sense of place. A
second illustration of the importance of “Irish Terroir” in recent times was the 2008
proposal to move Guinness production at the original and historic St James’s Gate on
the Dublin quays and to establish a modern plant nearby. This decision was later overturned due to the demise of Ireland’s property market. According to Ciarán Hancock
in a recent interview with Diageo Chief Executive Pat Walsh:
The cornerstone of that investment was the release of capital from surplus land
at St James’s Gate, which was ripe for development in inner city Dublin
during the property bubble. “We were prepared to reinvest that money in the
fabric of the business,” Walsh says. “With the recession, those land prices
evaporated. So the whole raison d’être just dissolved and we had to retrench
and see what’s next.” (Hancock, 2012)
One might speculate that Diageo recognised that the product-place connection with St
James Gate was so strong that a full move away would ultimately damage product
image and hence the market. So important was this relationship between product and
place that it appears to have strongly influenced the original 2008 choice of the
location of Diageo’s new brewery. According to Ciaran Hancock, Diageo was
believed to have chosen Leixlip as the site for its newly proposed 550 million euro
plant because of its historical links with the Guinness family (Hancock, 2008). Both
of the above examples illustrate the important association between product and place.
This relationship can prove very important in an Irish context where history, tradition
and provenance offer key foundations in developing and maintaining beverage market
The French concept of terroir is one which has often proved difficult to define. It can
potentially appeal to a market interested in place, origin and reflection of that place
through the wine product. One of the most authoritative reference texts in the area of
oenological studies is the Oxford Companion to Wine. In its analysis of the term
‘terroir’ it suggests that although there is no specific English translation for the word
it refers to the total natural environment of any viticultural site. The Oxford
Companion to Wine (2001, p. 966) goes on to discuss the concept at length citing a
number of respected authors including Laville (1990) who lists certain factors as
determining terroir. They include climate, sunlight, relief topography, geology and
hydrology. Overton and Heitger, citing Vaudour (2002) in their analysis mention
cultural resources in the definition of terroir which might include local viticultural and
vinification techniques (Overton and Heitger 2008, p. 441). Regardless of which
definition we use, terroir is what defines a particular style of wine. Few would argue
that the location of the Chablis vineyards in Burgundy, close to the town of Chablis
itself and the chalky soil prevalent in the area, linked to its marginal and difficult
climate, play a substantial role in producing its world-renowned steely white
chardonnays. Particularly when compared with the lush, warm irrigated winescape of
Australia, which produces the more buttery tropical noted Australian chardonnays.
Both use the same grape varieties but proponents of terroir would maintain that it is
the differences in the terroir-based factors above that cause the two wines to be so
very different. French terroir is integral to the French AOC system which is the
regulation underpinning all French quality wines and indeed the one adopted by the
majority of European producers. Trubek (2008, p.28) offers a quote from the INAO
Official literature of 1999 which encapsulates the AOC/terroir relationship.
It has been known from ancient times that certain lands are made more suitable to the
creation of products that retain, and in fact draw out, the specific flavours of that
place. Due to this phenomenon, at the beginning of the century the idea was born to
create the notion of the appellation d’origine, to acknowledge and protect it under the
rubric of the appellation d’origine contrôlée. (Trubek citing official INAO literature,
There are many authors that feel the concept of terroir is overrated by the French and
indeed given far too much credence among the wine community (Whalley, 2005, p.
62). Though sometimes a difficult concept to understand and regardless of where one
stands on the terroir debate, its potential role in the perception of French wine culture
is irrefutable and it’s an area that warrants more detailed scrutiny later in the project.
Having established that the Irish market does indeed have a strong affinity with place,
and that the relationship between product and place is important, it can be posited that
the very backbone of French terroir, i.e. the AOC system, has the potential to
influence the prevailing perception of French wines. One of the problems in the past
has been the failure to properly communicate “terroir” to the mass market. This
happened for a variety of reasons including perhaps language, labelling and often a
reluctance on the part of French producers to try to communicate a clearer message.
In her 2003 article, Emilie Boyer King suggests that several factors explain France’s
current failing position in world markets. They include its very complicated AOC
system as well what the author refers to as “cultural resistance”. Boyer king suggests
that there is a tendency with many French wine producers to think that France’s
reputation is enough in itself and that marketing is not necessary (Boyer King, 2003).
In contrast, New World producers have dominated both the Irish and the UK market
in the last decade because they offered a clear and unambiguous product that was
homogenous, very drinkable and easy to understand. All this came at an attractive
price point. Campbell and Guibert suggest that their success is due among other things
to their more industrial approach that ensures a consistent product and their promotion
of largely straightforward varietal wines to date (Campbell and Guibert, 2006). The
real danger is that the French may try to imitate the Australian success, in what
appears now to be a very different market. The French may attempt, and in some
cases already have attempted, to provide more homogenous, varietal, up front wines
that target the mass market rather than emphasising their “terroir” or sense of place.
One example of this would be Sopexa’s efforts at the “Wine Show 2006” in
London. Here, through their “French Wine Experience”, they tried to create a short
cut to French wines according to Florence Rhydderch of Sopexa, the French food and
wine marketing agency. They developed 6 zones in the show’s wine gallery billed as
Nights In, Nights Out, Dinner Parties, Celebration, Outdoor Living and Christmas
(Smith, 2006). This type of “dumbing down” of the place aspect of French wine is a
misguided effort to emulate the success of Australian wine in recent years is illadvised in my view, and a better strategic route would be one which emphasises
French wine’s sense of place, but in a more refined and more clearly communicated
A number of commentators believe that attitudes to wine, particularly in Ireland and
the UK, are already moving on. Many consumers are starting to seek out a higher
quality and a more interesting wine experience. There is currently a move towards
better, more quality-driven wines which involve enhanced consumer knowledge and a
more distinct sense of time and place. There is a very definite trend within world wine
markets of less volume throughput, but moves to better quality, a concept referred to
as “moins mais meilleur”. This trend very much favours the French wine market
globally, which is generally perceived as having a reputation for quality (Gamble,
Taddei, 2007). The Australian market seems to have understood and embraced this
concept. Wine Australia, at a 2008 seminar in Dublin, announced the incorporation of
a structure into their branding which, on initial inspection, bears some broad similarity
to the Appellation Contrôleé system that the French have been using since the 1930s.
In a major report, Wine Australia: Directions to 2025: An industry strategy for
sustainable success, (2007, p.14), the Australian sector makes clear its intention with
the following statement:
Underpinning the sector’s intentions to encourage consumers to “trade up” is
the recognition that Australia’s success as a maker of multi-regional brands of
high quality and affordable price has over-shadowed Australia’s place as a
producer of top-end wines: wines that reflect their individual sites, their
vintages and the philosophies of their makers and growers. Until it is broadly
recognised around the world that the imperatives of terroir, typicité, site and
vintage are today as much a foundation of Australia’s regionally distinct and
fine wine dimension as they are in traditional Europe, there is no room for
The Australian wine sector is attempting to further develop their market which they
now realise is seeking a more defined, higher quality product. They have created 4
levels of wine brand category that they hope will progressively lead their customer
base to their “Landmark” product. Their intentions are clear:
The development of a comprehensive marketing strategy and communication
of the Australian wine offer - via four sub-brands or "personalities" demonstrates how the consumer can confidently move from everyday
informality to aspiration and excellence. These personalities offer a
framework for Australian wine producers to position their wines, and for
global consumers to investigate and enjoy Australian wines for every
occasion. The logical conclusion of this supportive relationship between
accessibility, added interest, innovation and the ultimate pursuit of wine
quality is a successful and dynamic message for all markets”
(Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation, 2008)
In ascending order of quality, the four categories introduced are Brand Champions,
Generation Next, Regional Heroes and Landmark wines. It is perhaps no co-incidence
that the last two categories are named with reference to “place”. In particular the use
of the word “Landmark” is loaded in that it not only indicates a prestigious category
but also one that is very much terroir-based. These Landmark wines will be the
ultimate in Australian wines and will be very place-specific. I would argue that the
AOC system, already embedded in French wine culture, presents a ready-made
platform on which to build a similar progression ladder. Consumers have the potential
to progress over time from everyday quality Vins de Pays wines onto good quality
AOC wines and ultimately onto the best quality wines over a lifetime of wine
consumption. Because French wine already has a long established place-heritage, it
has a distinct advantage over New World competitors. Key challenges exist, however,
in finding an appropriate way to communicate the erudite knowledge necessary to
allow consumers in non-French markets to appreciate the intricacies of the AOC
system and successfully climb that “oenological progression ladder”.
Learning a
lesson from the most recent Australian approach, with its focus on progression to
Landmark wines, offers a potential route for the French in terms of developing an
approach for the Irish market, which in turn could open the way for more success in
the lucrative market that is the UK. Place has a very key role to play within the
formulation of such a strategy.
In attempting to come to an understanding of the importance of place in wine culture
it has become clear that the term “place” is multi-faceted. It means so much more than
simply where the wine comes from. Once deciphered, a wine’s “place” has the
potential to tell a story about the wine on two levels. Sometimes that story is very
obvious and can be communicated through visible cues such as packaging and
labelling. More often this story is told at a more subtle or subliminal level through the
communication of information regarding terroir and the influence of AOC. We have
established that there is a vast amount of academic research available on how
influential country of origin can be. A wine’s national identity is very important and
people’s perception of French wine culture, in particular, is complex. Authors offer
different opinions about the varying levels of influence that the CoO construct can
wield. Many note that it is but one of a number of cues that customers use to
determine how attractive a wine might be. The influence of CoO can also be mitigated
by other aspects of the product and even in wine culture the concepts of warranties
can apply in the form of wine reviews, scores, success at recognised competitions and
even wine steward recommendations. However, despite the wide range of academic
opinion available, the importance of CoO in determining our attitudes to place is
common to all. It is reasonable to conclude that it has a considerable effect on
consumer behaviour and must be of primary concern to anyone who attempts to
influence how place impacts on approaches that might be needed within the French
wine sector.
The concept of “place” is important for many different products that depend
on aspects of identity to make them attractive to particular consumers. Based on
examples used throughout this chapter, it seems reasonable to contend that wine has a
very different relationship with place because of its inherent qualities. Each of these
unique qualities impacts on the perceptions of place and the role such perceptions
play. Understanding the role of vintage, the regional wine-food relationship or the
complexities involved in communicating aspects of place to consumers is important if
we are to move to a fuller interpretation of the place concept. The important influence
of the AOC system and its relationship with the typically French concept of “terroir”
is fundamental and needs to be explored in much more detail later. In the final
section of this chapter we introduced the concept of “Irish Terroir” to help illustrate
the cultural affinity that the Irish traditionally have with place. We can now
reasonably contend that important place-based relationships already exist in Ireland
with other beverage categories such as stout and even with culturally endowed
organisations such as the GAA. Such relationships, where identity is so clearly
aligned to place, provide clear opportunities for the French wine sector. In the next
section of this thesis we will examine how this concept of place can be effectively
communicated through the French system of Appellation d’Origine Contrôleé. If we
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