PhD Candidate Sarah Cappeliez on the meanings of “terroir” in French and Canadian Wine

Sarah Cappeliez

PhD Candidate Sarah Cappeliez has recently published a paper about the meanings of terroir in the contexts of French and Canadian wine. The paper, published in Poetics, argues that despite its apparent elusiveness as a term, both French and Canadian contexts have understandings of terroir that share an appreciation of nature and place as a powerful force, though the understanding of the human relationship with the land varied by context. This paper draws on Cappeliez’ dissertation research which uses wine as a case for examining how ideas and tastes travel and are adopted in new places. We have posted the citation and abstract below. The full article is available in press and online.

Cappeliez, S. (2017). How well does terroir travel? Illuminating cultural translation using a comparative wine case study. Poetics. doi.org/10.1016/j.poetic.2017.10.002

Terroir is a complex French cultural term used to identify and classify artisanal foods and drinks in relation to a specific place. Notoriously “untranslatable”, terroir has nevertheless travelled well beyond the borders of France and Europe more broadly. This paper illuminates the parts of terroir that translate culturally by using a qualitative comparative case study of two contrasting wine regions, and examines how terroir manifests in similar and different ways when it is taken up in a French and a Canadian regional cultural context. Through the analysis of terroir discourse in 30 interviews and 32 websites, this study further clarifies the factors that drive consistency and change in the translation of a cultural idea like terroir. Moving beyond the idea that “terroir is adaptable”, this paper shows how wine actors articulate terroir’s normative principles as constant, but describe terroir’s natural and human practices in locally contingent ways, nuancing our understanding of stability and change in how culture unfolds within a globalized cultural context.

Read the full article here.