Anthropology of Wine

Taste Memory: Coherence, tradition & the politics of memory in wine

I will be giving a talk on wine & memory at Boston University’s Anthropology Department next week. This will be a dry run of the paper I am presenting in November at the American Anthropological Association meeting in Montreal.

Graduate Lunch Series Talk

Friday, November 4,    12:00

Anthropology Seminar Room, 232 Bay State Road, Boston, MA

Wine offers a unique opportunity to explore the concept of taste memory. Based on ethnographic research conducted in Piedmont, Italy, this paper will present two taste memory projects that articulate some of the theoretical questions underlying taste and time. The first example is the Banca del Vino in Pollenzo, Italy. The driving motivation behind this special cellar is twofold: first, wines are aged longer than the usual release time so that consumers can enjoy them once they near what is deemed their maximum potential. Second, there is an extensive collection of old wines in this bank that is intended to help preserve taste memory. These wines will help young winemakers and those in the wine trade understand the taste of wine over the longue durée. One complication in this project is that wine is organic and continues to evolve over time. Like human memory, wine’s sensory elements fade as it ages. The second ethnographic example is the “infernöt” that holds the wine memories of small wine producers, which often consist of bottles dating back to the beginning of the family’s production history. These collections are important for reminding the current winemaker of the main sensory themes of the wines and they help in giving the wines a consistent style. This paper will explore the ways in which wine banks and private family collections can be used as historical ‘documents’ that require a unique cultural interpretation involving the senses.

A light lunch will be served.  RSVP to