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The taste for the particular: A logic of discernment in an age of omnivorousness

Journal of Consumer Culture

Published online on


This article provides an analysis of two leading specialist wine magazines, Decanter and Wine Spectator, and the codification and legitimation of a ‘taste for the particular’. Such media of connoisseurship are key institutions of evaluation and legitimation in an age of omnivorousness, but are often overlooked in research that foregrounds the agency of tasters and neglects the conventionalization of tasting norms and devices. The wine field has undergone a process of democratization typical of omnivorousness more broadly: former elite/low boundaries (operationalized in the article through the Old/New World dichotomy) are ignored, and a discerning attitude is encouraged for wines from a diversity of regions. Drawing on the magazines’ audience profile and market position data, and a content analysis of advertising and editorial content from 2008 and 2010, I examine the differences in the use of four legitimation frames (transparency, heritage, genuineness and external validation) for the provenance elements of Old and New World wines. The analysis suggests that the Old World – typically French – notion of terroir, on which the traditional Old/New World boundary rested, has been democratized through the particularities of provenance. Yet, the analysis also reveals continuing differences between the two categories (including greater emphasis on the heritage and external validation of Old World context of production, and on the transparency and genuineness of New World producers), and the preservation of established hierarchies of taste through the application of terroir to New World wines, which retain the Old World and France as their master referent.