Wine and Identity: Branding, Heritage and Terroir — a review

Matt Harvey, Leanne White and Warwick Frost (editors), Wine and Identity: Branding, heritage, terroir. Routledge, 2014.

The premise of this interesting collection of academic papers is that the global wine market is highly competitive and rapidly changing and, in this dynamic environment, identity has become an increasingly important factor in the way that wine is thought about, experienced and especially how it is marketed.

Harvey, White and Frost, Australian professors of law, marketing and tourism respectively, analyze wine and identity in terms of heritage, branding and terroir — three flexible but useful “created” concepts.

You might think that heritage and terroir are historical and natural phenomena whereas brands are manufactured by marketers, but when you think about it heritage and terroir are subject to the same story-telling factors as commercial brands and are perhaps more powerful because unlike a created brand they bring with them a sense of authenticity.

Like many others, I see story-telling and identity as key to wine in the 21st century, so I was excited to receive this volume and I find it well-written, interesting and wholly worthwhile. I think anyone who wants to understand wine a bit better will find something useful here.

Each of the 18 chapters presents a relatively brief introduction to an interesting topic — enough to whet the appetite for more research and raise some thoughtful questions. Chapters that I found interesting include a comparison of wine heritage in California and Victoria (Australia), two regions with a great deal in common besides their wine, a comparison of wine in the “emerging” markets of Malaysia and the United States that made me rethink what I thought I knew about the U.S., and heritage and tourism in the Barossa Valley examined through case studies of Penfolds and Jacobs Creek, two wineries now owned by multinational firms.

I also enjoyed chapters on identity as expressed through winery architecture and an unexpected analysis of online “terroir.” There was something to like in every chapter, although as with every collected papers volume some parts will be more interesting to any given reader than others and the heritage-branding-terroir theme sometimes gets lost.

The authors of the chapters are appropriately multinational — Australia, New Zealand, France, Canada, Brazil, Georgia, Slovenia, the UK and South Africa are represented. Well worth reading. Part of the Routledge series on gastronomy, food and drink.


Note: Since I am an economist, I have to mention cost. Academic books like this are expensive for personal purchases. You might see if your local library has a copy or can borrow one for you.


6 responses

  1. To consider heritage as a story is a very wise, and comparatively rare approach.
    Most of the world’s most popular heritage sites have histories that are selections of fact , myth and invention. Colonial Williamsburg Virginia was largely built after 1926. Read a guidebook to Rome and it will focus on Ancient Rome, baroque Rome and Christian Rome, leaving out or skimming over most of the city’s history. The “native” dances of some South Pacific islands were invented in the 1960s.
    Read any city or regional history and it will be framed to reflect the bias of its sponsor. I know, I’ve written them.
    Great column, Mike. It made me want to read the book.

  2. Excellent recommendation. When not quipping about cheap wines in social media, I’m a full time marketing consultant mostly in fashion, tech and consumer products. I recently got a client in the industry (a biodynamic vineyard) – this scholarly publication will definitely inform my approach. Timing could not be better! Enjoy all your posts. Thank you!

  3. I’m sorry to say this, but I found this book boring and worthless. It has the flaw of many different writers repeating the same points, none of which are revelations. Instead, there’s a lot of academic-style belaboring the obvious. I can’t imagine why anyone would be interested in it.

    • Oira, I feel I can agree with you despite not having read the book. I’m a master’s student in marketing and interested in wine, so i frequently check out academic journals on wine and it is not too often I find articles worth reading. I feel wine marketers would be better off following tips and insights from other industries rather than reading academic articles..

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