“If wine hasn’t been turned into a standardized beverage, there’s room for variation. There’s an appreciation for variation that has something to do with the taste of place. And there’s different vintages, if not manipulated to achieve a standard outcome, will be distinctive. You’re tasting 2009 compared to 2016. And that tells you something about how warm it was that year or things that are more complex than that”
Deborah Heath, a leading anthropologist of wine and Associate Professor of Anthropology at Lewis & Clark in Portland, Oregan, chats (over a glass of wine, of course) with our very own Jodie-Lee Trembath at the 4S Conference in Sydney in late August. Keeping with the theme of Deborah’s workshop with Mike Bennie, Natty Wine and Its Companion Species, they discuss the meaning behind wine by comparing the differences between commercial winemaking and natural winemaking, how chemicals used during the production cycle of wine create post-apocalyptic worlds around Donna Haraway’s “contact zone”, and about living with the trouble of anthropology, the work that can and has been invasive and has privileged our relative power concerning those that we work with.
Just like our last panel episode, this interview was not recorded in our usual studio so you may notice a difference in sound quality.
“Wine doesn’t exist in nature. Grapes don’t turn themselves into wine without some sort of collaborative relationship with people who make wine.”
“The loose umbrella of so-called ‘natural wine’ is variously used to refer to wines that are manipulated less – wines that don’t have chemical inputs in the vineyard, which have become routine especially since World War Two, and that minimize interventions in the wine cellar” … “It’s pretty common practice to do what’s called chaptalization which means to add sugar which boosts alcohol, it’s fairly common practice to add acid, but a natural winemaker wouldn’t do either of those things.”
“In a fully self-sustaining vineyard environment, there will be lots of other critters involved. If you have animals like sheep, chickens, cattle, horses, that graze on the property and produce manure, then that manure can then be composted, you’ve got their participation in this nutrient soil that also then contributes to the micro-flora in the soil.”
“Composting is described by those who do it as magical!”
“Each of us can decide what tastes good to us. And then again we’re in the cross-hairs of marketing.”
“People are only patients when they’re in the middle of an appointment.”
“We all strive to, as Donna Haraway says, live with the trouble, live with the contradictions of the work that we do that can and has been invasive, that has - many times - privileged our relative power, vis-à-vis those that we work with.”
LINKS AND CITATIONS - see our website for full list
Haraway D. (2008) When species meet, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota.
For an explainer about chaptalization, give this article on Vine Pair a read: https://vinepair.com/wine-blog/what-is-chaptalization/
Trubek A. (2009) The Taste of Place: A Cultural Journey into Terroir, Berkeley: University of California Press.
The Brad Weiss episode Jodie mentions can be found here: https://thefamiliarstrange.com/2018/07/23/ep-18-brad-weiss/
This anthropology podcast is supported by the Australian Anthropological Society, the ANU’s College of Asia and the Pacific and College of Arts and Social Sciences, and the Australian Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, and is produced in collaboration with the American Anthropological Association.
Show notes by Deanna Catto
Music by Pete Dabro