I’ve been reading the final papers from my university class on The Idea of Wine and I thought I would share some of the topics with you to give you an idea how bright college-aged American students think about wine after spending a semester studying it.
Women and Wine Bars
The “wine, women and song” of this post’s title was inspired by two first-person research papers. Ali is interested in both gender issues and wine in a social setting, so it was natural that she might want to study “Women and the Wine Bar: a Tacoma Case Study.”
Ali’s paper began with academic study (the social analysis of drinking cultures), which she then applied to wine bars. Traditional bars, which feature beer and spirits, are seen by some scholars as a space to create and sustain male relationships.
Ali observed that wine bars attract a disproportionately female clientele and she and a friend observed the demographics of three local wine bars and the pattern of apparent relationships of the patrons. An interesting first step towards an understanding of wine, women and wine bar culture.
Music and Wine: A Harmonious Relationships
Erin, a music performance major, added song (or music) to the mix with her study of “The Musical Palate: An Exploration of Factors Linking Wine and Music.” Her research began with Clark Smith’s famous studies of how different musical pieces affect the perception of specific wines. Correctly paired, Smith suggests, music can improve the wine experience. I understand that a number of wineries are working with Smith in this regard.
A classically trained musician, Erin decided to see if the effect could move in the opposite direction, so she tried pairing several different wines with iconic musical pieces to see if they might enhance the listening experience. Incredibly she found that the right wine really did add something to musical appreciation — it was something like the way turning up the base or treble knobs on a stereo can alter the sound itself, she said. Erin’s study was personal, not scientific, but like Ali’s it suggests an area ripe for further study.
Money, Taste and Retsina?
Several of my students were able to connect wine with their other academic studies in interesting ways. Joanna, for example, saw links with her Psychology class on Sensation, Perception and Action. The course description reads
This course considers the phenomena and methods of sensation, perception, and action in biological organisms. It focuses primarily on vision and audition, but with an emphasis on the general principles of how various forms of physical energy in the world are transduced and transformed to yield useful representations and purposeful behavior.
Joanna moved the focus from sight and sound to taste. Her scientific final paper, “It’s on the Tip of My Tongue: Impact of Individual Tasting Difference on Wine,” was fascinating in a geeky kind of way I really appreciate.
Kelsey also asked to write a cross-over paper that would merge her wine studies with her work in Advanced Empirical Economics. The result was “China and Bordeaux Wine Auction Prices,” which used econometric techniques to probe the timing and impact of Chinese demand on wine prices.
Many students found ways to connect wine with their personal and professional interests. Taylor had never tasted Retsina, but she was attracted to it as a cultural artifact with contemporary relevance. Her paper is titled “Retsina: An Ancient Wine with an Ongoing Impact in Greece.” I wish I could have been there to see her face when she took her first sip of Retsina — it’s always a surprise!
Business major Eben looked at the closure issue from a winery business perspective in “A Corking Predicament: Closures of the Present, Past and Future.” Home brewer Lukas just had to write “Beer versus Wine: Switching Roles?” And Kirsten examined social media applications in “Wine on Facebook: Marketing Wine to a New Generation.”
The University of Puget Sound where I teach is a liberal arts college and it is easy to see from these paper topics why The Idea of Wine fits into the curriculum so well. Wine, with all its many forms and functions, is a clearly liberal art!
Sorry, but I cannot distribute copies of these student papers. Anyone with an interest in a specific study can contact me at Mike@WineEconomist.com and I will try to connect you to the author.