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Geography of Wine

download my spring 2013 Geography of Wine syllabus

Virtually all wines, wine regions and wine styles are products of the interaction of people in a particular physical environment. That is, the basic ingredients are a unique expression of the climate, soil, terrain and latitude of a place--every place on earth being unique in these respects. However, unlike most other agricultural commodities, there are also definitive human components of the product: historical style of processing, of finished taste, of tradition, of ritual. Wine, like no other commodity, is inherently tied to place, identified by place, made unique by place, perhaps even made valuable by place. As such, wine has played a fundamental economic, social, political and ideological role in different parts of the world throughout history.  Indeed wine defines the very world in which we live today: its use or abuse in some parts of the world; its absence in others; its role as a source of revenue, its role as a definer of culture.  Burgundy, Napa, Rhine, Chianti, Madeira, Port; these are not just commodities, they are places--inherently this THING is partially defined by where it is FROM.

Thus, wine becomes a great vehicle with which to study geographic concepts like diffusion, site and situation, acculturation, climate, biome, globalization, etc., and to do so in a way that connects to our daily lives, with products quite familiar to students and faculty alike.  My Geography of Wine course focuses on demystifying wine and wine consumption, and then use it as a learning tool.  

However, this will not simply be a descriptive account of evolution and diversity of wine, rather it seeks to do two specific things. First, it uses an analysis of wine production to explore the complex interplay between culture and the physical environment through history.  Second, it seeks to situate this within a particular formulation of the way in which societies function----with its focus on the interaction between social, economic, political and ideological structures.

This commodity-driven approach allows me to intersect several fields of study including geography, biology, economics, history, and religious studies. This survey of wine will complement courses in the allied disciplines by combining insights from many of them with a geographic perspective that includes an emphasis on an historical geography approach, at various spatial and temporal scales.  It will also provide a general yet advanced treatment of world history and world regional geography; vital assets to today's students in an ever-globalizing world.




Drink This Now!

Editions 1-2; 2010-2011

As wine's popularity continues to explode in the US, and sales sky-rocketing with it, there has come an avalanche of 'wine education' books preaching and promising to teach you everything you ever (or never) wanted to know about wine....without ever actually requiring consumption as part of the learning process! This book is for those actually wanting to start drinking the beverage of Bacchus immediately while they learn some stuff along the way. Using actual wine lessons written for and tested out in my college classes Drink This Now! was written with the wine-curious beginner in mind. First-time imbibers, college students, and even seasoned drinkers who would like to know a little more detail about this fantastic fluid are the target audience.