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Cultural Intermediaries and the Construction of Provenance

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Jennifer Smith Maguire

on 10 May 2013

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Transcript of Cultural Intermediaries and the Construction of Provenance

Cultural Intermediaries
and the
Construction of Provenance:
research in the super-premium
wine market


Jennifer Smith Maguire
Media & Communication/Management
jbs7@le.ac.uk value and ‘where things come from’:
where, by whom, how and when something was made
context of current cultural climate (food security, environmental sustainability, global homogenization, etc.) provenance common authenticity ‘cues’; not an inherent product property
provenance goods are contingent accomplishments
role of cultural producers and cultural intermediaries How is provenance used to construct the legitimacy of wines and the wine market? How is the wine market constructed by cultural producers and intermediaries? How are markets constructed by the actors within them? 100+ interviews with wine intermediaries (wine writers, retailers, sommeliers, importers, etc.)
super-premium wine and champagne markets in Australia, France, New York and Shanghai product qualities are made real through the process of ‘qualification and requalification’ (Callon, Méadel & Rabeharisoa 2002)
provenance and value formation: through provenance attributes, cultural intermediaries attach to wines and then frame attachments for others a cultural economy of provenance Thank you. influence of Bourdieu…
new occupations and the mediation of production and consumption

‘occupations involving presentation and representation (sales, marketing, advertising, public relations, fashion, decoration and so forth) and in all the institutions providing symbolic goods and services’ (Bourdieu 1984: 359) cultural intermediaries influence of economic sociology…
'professional qualifiers' (Callon et al 2002) of goods, and the mediation of economy and culture

cultural intermediaries 'construct value, by framing how others… engage with goods, affecting and effecting others’ orientations towards those goods as legitimate' (Smith Maguire & Matthews 2012: 552) research on cultural intermediaries foregrounds the various market actors involved in processes of value formation
not just framing goods; making (some) product properties into durable product qualities by disentangling, singularizing points of attachment for others
the points of attachment I'm interested in have to do with... I operate in retail as a curator. …If you look there’s more boutique, terroir-focused wine shops like us. But there’s a lot of fear about adopting that kind of approach. People tend to approach retail as if you have to have something to please everyone. And we don’t do that.
It’s not that a mass-produced wine is guaranteed to be bad quality; it’s not. But with the small grower, you get something more unique. Whether or not it is, it’s something that’s perceived as more honest. Humbler. I use the term ‘honest wine’ quite a lot. With terroir-driven wine, you get something that isn’t manipulated. (R86) A sommelier’s job is to travel, to go to the dirt. Of course, to make money for the restaurant. But also to understand what the customer wants, and to be the voice for the maker. That’s the blast of the job. That’s the best part of the job: to convince someone to try something new.
I sell them because I love them. And I think they need a voice. They really need a voice…in a little more refined context. Natural wine can’t just be drunk in wine bars. You need 1, 2 star Michelin restaurants, restaurants in New York with serious wine lists, with serious references. Then they become credible. (R87) I never stock a wine if I haven’t tasted it, if I haven’t fallen in love with it, I only sell what I drink and what I love. Apart from that, going to meet the winegrower, to see his winery, it’s very, very important.
They’re not even competitors: someone who drinks Moêt et Chandon won’t drink [natural champagne], they won’t like it; and someone who drinks [natural champagne] will hate Moët et Chandon. It’s two very different clienteles. It’s people who couldn’t even communicate if they talked about wine; they’re part of two different worlds. (R77) F: For the shop, the idea was to buy what we love. To support the artisans, the ones who work with the passion of the artisan. We look for the things that are very simple, very good; things that are not industrial.
M: Everybody has a story; every product has a story. ... A product without a story is not a good product. People have forgotten this. They've forgotten the sense of taste. They eat things from supermarket without any taste at all. (R83&84) [They have their own label wine]. This one [a viognier], it’s a small producer. For us, we’re not interested in the big producers—what you could call ‘industrial wine.’ For us, it’s about the small producers, who produce great quality. It’s not about brands, or wines made by marketing. (R103) Everything in this shop, I select. It is based on my preferences. I know everything in this shop. I know the owner, I know the vineyard, I know the soil, the grape variety. It’s an extension of my taste.
I believe in quality, not money.
I always keep two bottles of Margaux back there [in the stock room] in case some guy comes in and asks for ‘the best’ and he thinks best means the most expensive. But I don’t put that out here [in the shop]. (R97) There’s heaps of wine out there. And if you’ve got something that you’re focusing on, something that really gives you, A, a point of difference and B, an extra interest in it, it makes it that little bit more, you can appreciate it more.
It wouldn’t interest me to just, to not have a philosophy behind it. It’s not easy to find good wines, to find them at a good price, to have them fit in and people like them.
We’re not just sourcing mass-produced, ‘company’ wine. This is part of the restaurant’s philosophy. We don’t like to have the same wine that everyone else has. So we’ll go to any length of the earth to find the wine that nobody else has. (R70) One of the things I like to deliver in a wine list is affordability, diversity, weird and different. That’s how I create my wine list. […] Just interesting stuff to talk about…. We do look for the little quirky producers, the small names, artisans who do have a story to tell. (R62) cultural omnivorousness and the taste for authenticity
diminishing contrasts, increasing varieties (Elias 1939)
alternative relationships to ‘the market’ (e.g. definitions of success, competition, exchange) cultural intermediaries and new taste regimes College of Social Science 'Cultures of Consumption' Research Lunch.
08.05.13.
University of Leicester.
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