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KCOE 2165 - From French terroir wines to international brands understanding the culture of a fermenting industry

Type d'enseignement : Seminar

Semester : Autumn 2017-2018

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English



Course Description

"Le vin est senti par la nation française comme un bien qui lui est propre, au même titre que ses trois cent soixante espèces de fromages et sa culture." Roland Barthes, Mythologies, 1957. Sharing a glass of wine is probably the easiest way to break the ice in a French café. Yet, in France, wine is much more than just a social lubricant or a key to understand the local culture: wine is actually a part of the culture itself. The objective of this seminar is to understand the extent and the depth of the wine culture in France. French wines find their origin at a time when France was still to be invented, hence wine is inbred in the country's genetic patrimony. Knowing the history of French wine is to know the history of France. The French sacralize the concept of "terroir", which still prevails in most of the current wine production and has become a central part in marketing strategies. Parallels can be drawn between the cult of “terroir” (attachment to the soil, the conviction that each wine is unique) and the idealized image of themselves perceived by the French. Ultimately, the restrictions of communication on alcoholic beverages (known as the Loi Évin) highlight the ambiguous sociological and moral relationship maintained by the French with their iconic drink.The intervention of numerous prominent guests (from a famous wine-loving geographer to international wine buyers and influential critics), the tasting of wines and different fieldtrips (Champagne, wine shops, restaurants) will help students understand the intrinsic qualities of wine, the concept of “terroir”, and the cultural role played by wine at a local and a global level.


  • BERNATCHEZ, Philippe-Alexandre (Responsable Marketing, Champagne Ayala)
  • BUREL, Sébastien (Rédacteur en chef -

Pedagogical format

Attendance and class participation.

Course validation

Case study conducted collectively in groups of 5-8 students. A 2,000-word paper or PPT (written paper 35%); a 30 min presentation (25%). Four cases: the contested supremacy of champagne in the sparkling wine market. Evaluate the pros and cons of organic versus sustainable farming and demonstrate which, in your opinion, will the most strongly influence the world of fine wines in the near future. Launching a range of French wines in a foreign market. Analyze the keys to the success of wine bars in Paris, and can the same be reproduced in another major city of your choice. Reader's note : in a 1,000 words, analyze and comment one article selected from a list proposed by Philippe-Alexandre Bernatchez and Sébastien Burel (30%). Participation (10%).


Case Study : students will form 3 or 4 groups, and each of these groups will conduct a collective case study. The choice of the topic will be subject to a consultation with the teachers during class. The case study is a written document. Guidelines will be given for the case study. Each group will also present their case study in a 20-minute oral presentation. The quality and relevance of the case study and the presentation will be taken in consideration for the final evaluation. Required readings.

Required reading

  • Jancis Robinson, Oxford Companion to Wine
  • Jean-Robert Pitte, Bordeaux-Burgundy, A vintage rivalry, University of California Press, 2008
  • Benjamin Lewin M.W., What Price Bordeaux? Vendange, 2009

Additional required reading

  • Christopher Fielden, Exploring the World of Wines & Spirits
  • Hugh Johnson, World Atlas of Wine
  • Françoise Argod-Dutard, Pascal Charvet et Sandrine Lavaud (dir.), Voyage aux pays du vin : histoire, anthologie, dictionnaire, Robert Laffont, 2007
  • Gilbert Carrier, Histoire sociale et culturelle du vin, Larousse, 1998
  • Eric Arnold, First Big Crush, Scribner, 2007
  • Elin McCoy, The Emperor of Wine, The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste, Harper Perrenial, 2006