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Wine, Networks and Scales

Intermediation in the production, distribution and consumption of wine

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Edited By Stéphanie Lachaud-Martin, Corinne Marache, Julie McIntyre and Mikaël Pierre

Wine as a product arises from human connections in know-how and trade as much as from the natural environment in which grapes are grown. At each stage of decision-making about growing grapes, making wine, selling and drinking it, people with different roles are networked together into systems of production and distribution. The authors in this collection offer new studies of the individuals and groups who act as connectors in these networked systems, intermediating in the delivery of wine from growers’ vines to consumers’ glasses. These actors operate at multi-layered scales of geography or within multiple regimes of governance, all the while taking account of arbitrations of quality and taste. This collection highlights how intermediators in many different wine countries and periods of history are, and have been, significant agents of continuity and change in the wine industry.

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Wine Merchants and Wine Producers in France in the 18th Century: Between Trust and Mistrust

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BENOÎT MUSSET

It is a commonplace to say that there are two ways of extracting profit in trade. Sales to purchasers must, on the one hand, be made at the highest price while purchasing from the producer, on the other hand, must be done at the lowest price possible. The ideal arrangement is nevertheless when there is agreement between the two partners: as Boullay, the Canon of Orleans, said in 1723 “when the sale is at a reasonable price, then the bourgeois and the merchant each stand to gain and both are content, or at least, they should be!”1

From the mid-17th century a series of disruptions disturbed trade. Firstly, new patterns of commerce emerged which increased competition. Up until then trading patterns had been relatively stable: Paris consumed the wines made in the Paris / Ile de France region, Flanders bought wines from Burgundy and Champagne and the English took Bordeaux wines; many wine-producing estates benefited from secure incomes, selling their wine to the regions bordering the vines that had no vineyards themselves. During the 17th century, two major interruptions came to unsettle this geography: the incursion of the Dutch in the west (Nantes region, Anjou, Saintonge) and the rise in the attractiveness of Paris which captured several wine-producing areas (around Orleans, Tours, part of Anjou, upper Burgundy, Beaujolais…)2.

After that, the range of wines expanded with a stronger segmentation in the demand. Wines established differences between themselves, older ←43...

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