I have recently started an internship at the Jules Guyot Institute, otherwise known as the University Institute of the Vine and Wine (Institut Universitaire de la Vigne et du Vin) at the University of Burgundy in Dijon.
For three years now, the Institute has thrown a big annual wine geek party (ie research conference) that is called the WAC (Wine Active Compounds) International Conference. This year, March 26-28 in Beaune, I am thrilled to be able to attend, as the program promises to be quite interesting.
There are plenty of classic research talks on the schedule, with speakers from across the world including Wendy Parr (sensory science) from New Zealand, Elisabeth Tomasino (enological chemistry) from Oregon State University, and Georg Meissner (known for research on biodynamic viticulture) from the University of Geisenheim, Germany, all of whom are particularly interesting to me for various reasons.
But the subject matter varies enormously – there are talks not only on phenolic chemistry, health effects of wine components, effect of viticultural practices on wine composition, minerality and wine aging, but also on consumer choice, reputation of organic and biodynamic viticulture, winemaking legislation, and the sociology of winemaking, to name a few (the full program is available here).
All of this should make for a well-balanced conference that covers not only the science, but also some of the humanistic and social aspects of grapegrowing, winemaking, and wine consumption. An appropriate menu, I think, for a subject that so naturally links the sciences with the humanities.
But most exciting to me, and what gives me hope that these two aspects will be able to intermingle and a dialogue will occur that unites the natural science and the social sciences during the conference, is the keynote speaker. The keynote to WAC 2014 will be given by Professor Steven Shapin, Historian of Science from Harvard University. A superstar of Science Studies. His talk is entitled “Historical and cultural construction of the wine perception,” and I am thrilled to see a conference framed by a keynote from a history of science perspective, from an author that I have read since the very beginnings of my academic exploration of science studies, well before wine was part of my subject matter.
All of this to unite the worlds of science, humanities, science studies, and, of course, wine. I will certainly be reporting back.