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Wine Nerds and Pleasure-seekers: Understanding Wine Taste Formation and Practice

Sat, August 12, 4:30 to 5:30pm, Palais des congrès de Montréal, Floor: Level 5, 520A


How do people learn about good taste? How do they learn to appraise and appreciate cultural objects and practices, and become informed consumers? In this paper, I use the case of wine consumption to examine the formation of taste and argue that learning about wine (and how to taste it) involves not only status-driven motivations, but also the pursuit of different pleasures. Through the analysis of interviews with 23 self-identified wine enthusiasts in Ontario, Canada, I explore how wine enthusiasts describe and frame their interest in learning about wine, with the aim of unpacking how they engage with wine and learn to taste it. My findings show that wine enthusiasts, like foodies, display a knowledge-seeking disposition that enables the formation of a taste for wine. This disposition, I argue, positions wine enthusiasts to become avid and engaged consumers of wine through activities and experiences that involve three pleasure dimensions: 1) sensory, 2) cognitive, and 3) status-driven. In analyzing these pleasure dimensions of taste acquisition, I bridge social constructionist approaches of taste as status with research that brings attention to the embodied and pleasurable experiences of taste formation and practice, and argue for further incorporation of the embodied sensorial aspects of consumption into studies of cultural consumption and taste.