Category Archives: representations & discourses

The Sparkling Symposium, 28 November 2019

photo of symposium programme

Photo credit: Judith Boyle

Many thanks to all who could join us yesterday at Sheffield Hallam University for the Sparkling Symposium, hosted by the CHEFS research cluster and sponsored by Sheffield Business School, Department of Service Sector Management.

The event brought together academics and industry professionals, including wine makers, winery owners, wine retailers and wine writers, to discuss present and future directions of champagne and sparkling wine, with a focus on the British context.

The afternoon began with comments from co-organisers Professor Jennifer Smith Maguire and Dr John Dunning, welcoming 48 participants from across the UK and beyond. The Symposium marked the external launch of the CHEFS (Culture, Health, Environment, Food and Society) research cluster, and signalled the group’s commitment to fostering interdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration between academics and practitioners with regard to the socio-cultural dimensions of food and drink. What could be a better first topic of discussion than sparkling wine?

John Dunning and Jennifer Smith Maguire open the symposium

Photo credit: James Ellerby

Professor Marion Demossier delivered the first keynote: ‘Critical Reflexions on Terroir,’ in which she explored the questions of ‘What do people do with the notion of terroir?’ and ‘What does terroir do to wine?’ Drawing on 30 years of fieldwork in Burgundy and recent work in New Zealand and the UK, Marion outlined the powerful instruments and strategies that have linked place, taste and quality, and highlighted some of their potential disadvantages, including the homogenization of local cultures and environments, and the loss of authentic connections between people and place.

Marion Demossier delivering keynote Marion Demossier delivering keynote

Rebecca Gibb MW delivered the second keynote: ‘Uncorking the sparkling wine world,’ exploring some of the socio-political struggles and technological advances that underpinned the historical development of champagne. She then provided a critical analysis of the relative successes and failures of other sparkling wines. Drawing comparisons between champagne, cava, prosecco and New Zealand sparkling, Rebecca concluded by outlining some of the key factors for champagne’s enduring market success.

Rebecca Gibb delivering keynote Rebecca Gibb delivering keynote

Following a lively question and answer session, and a break for tea, coffee and cake, the Symposium resumed with Jennifer Smith Maguire outlining ‘A changing market context’ for champagne and sparkling wine in the British context. Jennifer discussed four factors that help to understand the increasingly diverse UK sparkling wine market, highlighting changing attitudes of consumers, producers and market gatekeepers such as wine journalists with regard to luxury brands, hierarchies of cultural legitimacy, desires for the hand-crafted and authentic, and a sense of taste for place and novelty.

Jennifer Smith Maguire delivering presentation

Photo credit: Helenka Brown

Participants were then treated to an entertaining and educational tasting of four champagnes, led by Rebecca and John. A highly scientific poll of participants revealed a wide spread of favourites, with each wine receiving votes for best in show: à chacun son gout!

4 tasting glasses

Photo credit: Emma Martin

John Dunning and Rebecca Gibb leading the tasting

The final major portion of the Symposium was devoted to a panel discussion of the present and future of sparkling wine. The panel included Marion Demossier, Rebecca Gibb, Mr John Mitchell and Dr Gregory Dunn. John, the owner and director of Sheffield’s Mitchells Wines, shared his insights as to the changing tastes of British consumers over his 50 years in the wine and spirits trade as a retailer and wholesaler. Greg reflected on the industry from the perspective of his research, role as the Head of Plumpton College’s Wine Division and experience as the Programme Manager for Plumpton’s MSc Viticulture & Oenology. Greg skilfully chaired the session to ensure ample contributions from the audience of both comments and questions. The panel ended with a final challenge to the panellists, asking for their recommendations as to how best to attract under-30 consumers to English sparkling wine.

Panel discussion (Greg Dunn, Rebecca Gibb, John Mitchell, Marion Demossier) James Ellerby pouring for the reception

After a stimulating afternoon of presentations and discussion—and many rounds of thanks to all involved—the Symposium concluded with a wine and canapé reception. Judging by the volume of conversations in the room, there was plenty of appetite for further discussion.

Thanks once again to all who took part. Until next time!


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Filed under alcohol, identities & rituals, representations & discourses, research, Uncategorized, urban & regional development, wine

Food waste as sustainable luxury: Rachael Colley’s award-winning jewellery

ITAMI posterWe are delighted to announce that Rachael Colley, senior lecturer in jewellery and metalwork at Sheffield Hallam University, was recently awarded the grand prize at the 2019 ITAMI International Jewellery Exhibition in Japan for her series Sha-green. The series presents food waste, in the form of discarded citrus fruit peel, as a sustainable, biodegradable, vegan alternative to the traditionally animal-based luxurious decorative surface finish known as shagreen (ray or shark skin). This scented material comes alive when worn; as it is warmed by the body it emits a subtle fruity fragrance. A statement from The Museum of Arts & Crafts ITAMI about the award is given below.

2019 ITAMI International Jewellery Exhibition Grand Prix

It marks the 22nd ITAMI International Craft Exhibition and this year’s theme is “Jewellery”, which comes every other year. The Museum of Arts and Crafts ITAMI endeavors to broaden the culture of jewellery, where it houses ITAMI College of Jewellery that aims to foster professional jewellery artists, besides holding numerous jewellery exhibitions. As a result of such effort, the recognition of “ITAMI = jewellery” is now widely spread not only in Japan but also abroad where we received 1,132 pieces of works from 339 artists including 138 applicants from 19 countries abroad for the “ITAMI International Jewellery Exhibition” this time, resulting to 97 selected artists out of which 8 had received prizes after strict examination.Rachael Colley jewellery

Among those from diverse backgrounds, the works awarded with prizes as well as those selected demonstrate careful consideration towards relationship with body, nature and social environment. Not to mention that they posses of beauty as jewellery to adorn the body, the manners in which they stimulate the human five senses inspired by the ordinary daily lives are flooded with noteworthy uniqueness, and it is the very point that we the museum highly appreciate as examination criteria. Especially, the Grand Prix work of COLLEY Rachael got high reputation. It was her second participation, and her first entry work in 2017 “Vanitas series, M(eat) et al collection” also got Award for Promising Talent. This was a series of brooches which were designed to refer traditional themes found in the genre of still life painting. These reminded the wearer of the problem awareness by re-creating jewellery out of the waste food materials, and posed a problem about our destiny, pleasure, and so on. What we wearers were most impressed and amazed was the fact that we wear peeled vegetables’ skin. They are just next to our humans’ skin.

close up of pendantAs her previous work left us such impression, this time we were looking forward to her new pieces, which must be exciting and beautiful. Of course, she didn’t betray us to show her excellent “Sha-Green”. As alternative to traditionally animal-based luxurious decorative surface, food waste was presented. We find intelligence in the combination of metal frame and delicate texture of carefully engraved citrus peel. Moreover, it’s fascinating when it is warmed by our body it emits a subtle fruity fragrance.

The juries also admired her work because it consisted of expression, utility, and skill with good uses of materials, concepts and skilled craftsmanship. We would like many people to see and enjoy her attractive jewellery that makes shape something spiritual or thought.

The Museum of Arts and Crafts ITAMI

Rachael Colley accepting the award

Jewellery on display at the museumRachael Colley accepting the award, speech

Photo credits: Rachael Colley and The Museum of Arts & Crafts Itami.




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Filed under representations & discourses, surplus waste & excess food in society, sustainability

Wine, terroir and doing things differently

Elmar* is an organic winemaker. His winery is about an hour’s drive from Cape Town in South Africa, at the end of a steep, rutted dirt track, which itself branches off from a small unpaved road. I feel as if I’ve left the rest of the world behind as I drive to meet him for our interview. His vineyards—2 hectares of which are planted with cabernet sauvignon vines—are incredibly verdant. He tells me that it’s a radically different scene from when he first bought the farm twenty-five years. Then, the land was denuded, and the soil was “dead;” now, every square inch is teeming with life and the ground feels springy under our feet.

photo of a verdant vineyard

Elmar is a small-scale producer, making only about 8,000 bottles a year of his award-winning wine. Working in alignment with organic methods means he can “feel good” about what he does. However, he tells me:

There’s a flipside to every coin. Your crops go down, you don’t get the same volumes, and I don’t believe the premium that you get on your product balances the reduction in the crops. So, economically, it makes more sense to farm conventionally. 

For many of us, wine is simply a matter of consumption, leisure and pleasure. However, wine is also a livelihood. The costs and benefits that follow from Elmar’s decisions about his production methods inform the daily realities of being able to feed and house his family and pay the bills. So, if conventional methods make “more sense,” why work organically? He says:

Because it’s sustainable. You can carry on doing this. Whereas the other way…the day of reckoning is going to come.

And would he consider scaling up his production to meet the potential demand for his award-winning wines? He answers without hesitation:

No. I am making a living, and there’s absolutely no need to go bigger at all. […] The bigger you go, the more people you need to employ, the more marketing you need to do, the more managers you need. And you know, all of those come with their costs. And in the end, what’s it that you take home?

On two fronts, therefore, Elmar is doing things differently. He uses organic rather than conventional farming practices, and his business orientation runs counter to the usual pursuit of profit, growth and market expansion. Nevertheless, his orientation to wine production is absolutely in line with the established culture of fine wine. As he says:

We’re not making wine that is the same as everybody else’s wine. We’re trying to…express place that’s unique. And the wines that you taste here will not taste like anybody else’s wine.

In the terminology of the wine world, Elmar is talking about expressing the terroir of his wines: the idea of a unique link between the place and culture of production (e.g. soil, climate, topography, heritage) and the resulting wine.


Over the past ten years, I have interviewed a range of winemakers in South Africa, France and Australia. Some of them (like Elmar) identify as ‘organic,’ others as ‘biodynamic’ or ‘natural.’ Regardless of their chosen label, they share a focus on making wines with minimal or no chemical and mechanical interventions. This tends to mean making wine from grapes grown without synthetic chemical pesticides or fertilizers and harvested by hand, using wild yeasts and little or no added sulphur. Thus, although the term ‘natural wine’ may be contentious in the wine trade, it nevertheless signals what these winemakers have in common: an attempt to work in concert with nature, in the vineyard and cellar. They also share a focus on making wines that express their place, or terroir. For Elmar, this goes hand-in-hand with working in sustainable ways; for most, sustainability is a happy consequence of their desire to give the purest representation of their unique place through their wines.


I discussed what we might learn from ‘natural’ winemakers in a SHU public lecture on Taste, Place and Why They Matter. In that lecture, I suggested how their shared commitment to expressing their terroir—what Amy Trubeck calls the ‘taste of place’—guided them in making wine, but also enabled them to do things differently. In a myriad of ways—including rejecting agro-chemicals, prioritizing lower yields, hand picking, and adapting earlier eras’ (nearly extinct) agricultural techniques—their practices differ sharply from the conventional methods of the global industrial agri-food regime. More so, their commitment to terroir was expressed not just in their wine but also through a long-term commitment to, and collaboration with the land and the vines: an alternative to the conventional quest for dominion over natural resources. The ‘normal’ methods of agri-food production, and dominant view of nature as a resource to be exploited have led to crises of food insecurity, land degradation, toxic agricultural working conditions, and threats to biodiversity. It is therefore critical that we understand how some producers come to adopt alternative methods, and how that might help to pave the way for today’s alternatives to become the environmentally-sustainable conventions of the future.

About the author:

Jennifer Smith Maguire is Professor of Cultural Production and Consumption in Sheffield Business School, Sheffield Hallam University. Her research focuses on the construction of markets, tastes and value, primarily in relation to food and wine.


*Elmar is a pseudonym.

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Filed under provenance, representations & discourses, research, sustainability, Uncategorized, wine