The Idea of Wine

IPE 405: The Idea of Wine

Spring 2018

Instructor: Pierre Ly

Office: McIntyre 304

Office hours: Announced each week and scheduled at different times to reach more students.

Phone: (253) 879 3584                                                                     


Course description

Wine is very simple; it is the fermented juice of ripe grapes.  It is what happens when you leave crushed grapes alone with the wild yeasts that naturally cling to them. It almost makes itself in its most basic form.  The idea of wine, however, is very complicated and hotly contested.  How should wine be made, where, and by whom?  How should wine be consumed and on what terms?  How should it taste?  What does it mean?  Who should control its meaning? To paraphrase the Chairman on the Japanese television show Iron Chef, whose idea of wine will reign supreme?  Making sense of the battle for the idea of wine will require us to attempt to understand the problem using many of the disciplines of the liberal arts, especially history, geography, natural science, economics, and politics.

Expected Student Learning Outcomes:

  • Understand the local and global political, economic, and social forces that shape wine production and consumption
  • Make analytical connections across disciplines to develop a well-rounded understanding of wine
  • Write an effective, concise position paper on controversial issues in the wine sector
  • Engage in conversations about these issues with confidence
  • Write in depth research papers dealing with key issues in the wine sector
  • Become an informed, engaged, and critical thinking consumer of wine

Course organization:

Unit 1. Competing ideas of wine production: How is wine produced and why do people disagree on how it should be done?

Unit 2. Old World versus New World: Different ideas of wine are often associated with the Old World and the New World. We will probe this dichotomy to see if it holds and consider a number of issues. We will study the 2004 film Mondovino as an example the key issues in the wine debate.

Unit 3. Wine Wars: The last part of the course expands on the themes discussed in Mondovino and examines competing ideas of wine in the context of intense global competition.

Course resources:

Schedule of classes, readings and assignments

Guidelines and expectations for papers

Books: There are three main books for the course, available at the bookstore. There are also e-book versions of two of them (Wine Politics, and Wine Wars), for those who prefer reading on screen.

Benjamin Lewin, Wine Myths and Reality. Vendange Press, 2017 (older edition is fine).

Tyler Colman, Wine Politics: How Governments, Environmentalists, Mobsters and Critics Influence the Wines We Drink. University of California Press, 2008.

Mike Veseth, Wine Wars: The Curse of the Blue Nun, the Miracle of Two Buck Chuck and the Revenge of the Terroirists. Rowman & Littlefield, 2011.

Additional readings (if any) are available as links in the course schedule, or for download on Moodle.

All assignments must be submitted on Moodle.

Useful websites:

Library research guide for The Idea of Wine: Links to academic resources, but also wine blogs, wine magazine websites, and all library databases.

The Wine Economist blog:

Jamie Goode’s online wine magazine:

Wine industry news:

The Academic Wino:

Daily reading assignment: reading notes must be submitted on Moodle before class.

Why reading notes? To use short, informal writing as a tool to learn and think.

Most importantly, it ensures that everybody will have good preparation for class discussion. Informal notes and bullet point lists are OK, format is up to you.

They are graded on a pass/fail basis and this is part of your participation grade. Submit something that shows you have done the reading and you pass. If you fail to submit at all, you know that you have failed.

Two ways to do it:

  • You can follow these two broad reading questions to organize your notes: 1. Explain three key ideas that surprised you and/or found particularly interesting in the reading of the day; 2. Explain one or two main points that you retain from the reading and that you think will be useful for you as a wine consumer from now on
  • Or you can merge, even ignore these questions, and structure your thoughts as you please. But in any case, show that you prepared for the day.


Your final grade is determined by the following breakdown of assignments and tests.

Participation/Reading notes       10%

Quiz 1                                              8%

Quiz 2                                              12%

Short position essay                     3%

Paper 1                                            20%

Paper 2                                            23%

Final Project                                    24%

An overall assessment of your performance in class discussions and activities, and your P/F ratio on reading notes will form the basis of your participation grade.

Policies regarding paper deadlines

Late submissions will be penalized at the rate of .5 gpa point for every 12 hours passed the official deadline. Example: for the first late 12 hour period, an A minus quality work, 3.67/4, becomes 3.67 -.5=3.17. Another 12 hours and the grade becomes a 2.67, etc.

You will be given ample time to work on each assignment, so extensions will not be granted.

Important dates

Tuesday Feb 13: short essay (500 words) due by 23:59pm

Friday Feb 23: paper 1 due on Moodle by 23:59pm

Thursday March 8: Quiz 1

Tuesday April 3: paper 2 due on Moodle by 23:59pm

Tuesday May 1 (last day of class): Quiz 2

Thursday May 10: Final project due by 6pm

Wine tastings: There will be two formal wine tastings outside of class, held in the evening. Idea of Wine students (21 and over only) are encouraged to attend these events but they are not required.

Academic honesty: University academic policy makes plagiarism a serious offense.  Plagiarism of any kind, including resubmission of old papers, papers used in other current courses, or papers written by somebody else will result in the student failing the assignment, and possibly the entire course.  If you are unsure about proper referencing, or what may or may not constitute plagiarism, please ask me before you hand in any assignments.  You may discuss your homework assignments with classmates, however, the work you turn in should be written up independently. You may also collaborate in studying or preparing for the exams, but the written exam should be your work alone. Any cheating on examinations or plagiarism in assignments will be reported to the Dean of Students.  For further information, please consult the “Academic Honesty” section of the University of Puget Sound Academic Handbook.

Technology use and privacy: This course incorporates various online software and other technologies.  Some technologies require you to either create an account on an external site or develop assignment content using them.  The content, as well as your name/username or other personally identifying information may be publicly available as a result.  While the purpose of these assignments is to engage with technology as a means for representing the content we are covering in class, please see me for an alternative activity if you object to potentially sharing your account, name, or other content you create in these technologies.

Classroom Emergency Response Guidance: Please review university emergency preparedness and response procedures posted at  There is a link on the university home page. Familiarize yourself with hall exit doors and the designated gathering area for your class and laboratory buildings.

If building evacuation becomes necessary (e.g. earthquake), meet your instructor at the designated gathering area so she/he can account for your presence.  Then wait for further instructions.  Do not return to the building or classroom until advised by a university emergency response representative.

If confronted by an act of violence, be prepared to make quick decisions to protect your safety.  Flee the area by running away from the source of danger if you can safely do so.  If this is not possible, shelter in place by securing classroom or lab doors and windows, closing blinds, and turning off room lights.  Stay low, away from doors and windows, and as close to the interior hallway walls as possible.  Wait for further instructions.

Disability services at Puget Sound: If you have a physical, psychological, medical or learning disability that may impact your course work, please contact Peggy Perno, Director of Disability Services, 105 Howarth Hall, 253-879-3395. She will determine with you what accommodations are necessary and appropriate. All information and documentation is confidential.

Student Bereavement Policy: “Upon approval from the Dean of Students’ Office, students who experience a death in the family, including parent, grandparent, sibling, or persons living in the same household, are allowed three consecutive weekdays of excused absences, as negotiated with the Dean of Students’. For more information, please see the Academic Handbook.”