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The emergence of new wine design practices: Flexitanks and the assembling of bulk wine across global rural regions

Authors: Christian Steiner*, University of Eichstätt, Gerhard Rainer*, Katholische Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, Robert Puetz, Goethe University Frankfurt
Topics: Economic Geography, Human-Environment Geography, Rural Geography
Keywords: Globalization, social studies of economization, wine industry, New Zealand, Chile, Germany
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In this paper, we argue that the rapid expansion of exports as a share of global wine production is strongly related to the invention of flexitanks for wine transportation and the concurrent exponential growth of the bulk wine industry. Bulk wine fundamentally changes wine production from the organisation of grape growing to the commercialisation of the final product, as it enables companies to assemble wine across the globe. Building on ethnographic fieldwork with New Zealand and Chilean bulk wine producers and German large-scale wineries which specialise in bulk wine blending and bottling, our aim in this paper is to investigate how these new connections are forged and sustained. Drawing on the work of Çalışkan & Callon (2010), we analyse three market-making processes: objectification of goods, marketising agencies, and market encounters. Through the detailed analysis of one market encounter that we have called ‘wine design sessions’, we show that German retailers align the other bulk wine agencies in a way that means they are well placed to decide on the final composition of the wines in a highly flexible accumulation scheme. It is through these wine design sessions and the practices of tasting, comparing, designing, analysing and controlling wines that they organise the assembling of bulk wines according to their specifications. Hence, rather than through top-down-pressure, coordination in the bulk wine market is accomplished through mundane practices, which allow for action at a distance and which connect (and sometimes disconnect) rural regions on a global stage.

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