Today everybody – including non-drinkers and health enthusiasts – is perfectly aware that wine is no longer a mere beverage. For many people wine is at the centre of activities involving passions, hobbies, study, knowledge, sociality, employment, profit, collecting, communication, and even snobbery. The fact that the social contexts relating to wine are so numerous and diverse explains why it’s a topic that is both widely discussed and culturally neglected. Modern wine – reflecting both a universal appreciation for quality and a humble acknowledgement of the impossibility of a shared definition – requires a grand social (and economic) account in which a sense of novelty, for better or for worse, makes the difference. Having to deal with an often incomprehensible technical and critical vocabulary, new oenophiles need to pick their way through terroirs and crus, judges and sommeliers, wine auctions and classifications, tasting events and competitions, and – of course – vineyards and wineries. A good wine connoisseur is familiar with each wine’s best vintage; a wine snob even knows the name of the chief vintner.
Gianmarco Navarini teaches Cultural Sociology and Ethnography at the Bicocca University in Milan. He lives in both Milan and Sorano, in Tuscany, where he cultivates Pinot noir grapes on a tiny plot of land.