Metaphor as a Wine Education Corkscrew

Wine is a captivating beverage. Each glass tells a story of aromas and flavours, people and places, culture and history. For many people, the winery cellar door is their entry point to wine appreciation, knowledge, and awareness—wine acculturation and education. Wine is, after all, a definitively human phenomenon, made by people for people to experience and enjoy.

Essentially, the cellar door experience underpins customer relationship development, direct sales opportunities, and learning about wine appreciation. Wine quality and convivial surroundings are important, but effective communication is essential. The cellar door is a key for the Australian wine tourism industry to unlock the potential of domestic and international visitors for rural and regional areas. These visitors to our wine regions contribute to rural economies and employment by spending their tourism dollars at the cellar door.

In their forthcoming paper, Uncorking the potential of wine language for young wine tourists, ACCELL’s Research Fellow Dr. Allison Creed and Research Director Dr. Peter McIlveen draw attention to effective wine communication with a focus on the young wine tourist: Does the language used to describe and learn about wine have the qualities to invite a younger audience into wine culture?

This is an important question for two reasons. First, language is inherent to the uniquely human experience of wine in terms of how it is described to self and others (e.g., tasting notes).  Second, effective communication with and education of consumers underpins growth in wine knowledge that, in turn, contributes to growth in ethical wine consumption (Knott, 2004).

Winespeak and metaphor

Wine is embedded in cultures and aesthetics (e.g., food, fashion) and wine language is full of fuzzy concepts (e.g., the nose and bouquet; flavour and mouthfeel; finish and after taste). Somewhat disparagingly referred to as winespeak, wine communication is rich in figurative language. To this end, metaphor is a frequent feature of wine reviews and tasting notes used at the cellar door, on winery websites, or promotional materials. Metaphor involves two different knowledge domains: a target domain (e.g., wine) and a source domain (e.g., a person). That is, people come to understand one thing in terms of another (e.g., this wine is round—the mouthfeel given as shape; a palate full of nervous energy—an appraisal in terms of personality).

Personification of wine

Wine consumers experience more of the intrinsic characteristics of a wine after they receive product information. Therefore, effective communication is important because it underpins growth in wine knowledge that, in turn, contributes to growth in wine consumption. Personification can be an effective communication strategy and tool for wine education. Personification is where a product or brand is talked about to engage consumers via their experiences of it in terms of its similarity to and relatedness to people. “Marketers can use a variety of visual, verbal and metaphorical tools to activate knowledge of a ‘human’ schema and, thereby, enhance consumers’ tendencies to perceive brands in anthropomorphic ways” (MacInnis & Folkes, 2017, p. 37).

For instance, a wine has a voice: announce, sing, whisper, or suggest; wine has psychological features: confident, honest, mellow, or brooding; wine has physical attributes: heart, nerve, and backbone; and, wine has aesthetic properties: gorgeous, luscious, and youthful.

The personification of wine helps people understand the wine experience through figurative language frames. A figurative frame captures information to make an unknown, abstract and/or complex issue more concrete and comprehensible. Such framing utilises metaphorical language to personify and story the wine experience. Therefore, what is and what is not an effective frame is an important area of research to uncover the proactive capability of figurative frames in wine communication directed at different groups of wine tourist.

The persuasive power of metaphor

Metaphor can be an educational “corkscrew” to open up wine to consumers. Consumer behaviour studies of metaphoric language in advertising and promotion indicate that metaphoric expressions are more persuasive than literal speech (Bosman & Hagendoorn, 1991; Forceville & Urios-Aparisi, 2009; Tom & Eves, 1999).  When seen as a resource, metaphor analysis has the power to uncork the potential of wine language and enhance wine education. In light of this and to bookend the forthcoming article, ACCELL’s Research Fellow, Dr Allison Creed, was invited by Dr Lettie Dorst to present her interactive workshop Waiter! There’s a Metaphor in my Wine at Leiden University Centre for Linguistics in the Netherlands during her residency at the Metaphor Lab Amsterdam as a Visiting Research Scholar from June to November 2017.

Leiden wine workshop_promo

Waiter! There’s a Metaphor in my Wine is designed as an interactive workshop that offers participants a theoretical, methodological, and gastronomic introduction to wine, genre, and metaphor. The genre of wine reviews is used to demonstrate the potential for metaphor to transform and translate people’s sensory and emotional responses to the aesthetic artefact of wine. Participants at the Leiden University workshop took part in wine tastings and collaborated to identify metaphorical language using the Metaphor Identification Procedure Vrije Universiteit (MIPVU; Steen, et al, 2010) in a wine review sample. Groups enjoyed creating a lightening wine review and the workshop culminated in a prize awarded by peer review!

Forthcoming publication:
Creed, A. & McIlveen, P. F. (Under Review). Uncorking the potential of wine language for young wine tourists. In M. Sigala & R. Robinson (Eds.). Managing and marketing wine tourism and destinations: Theory and cases. London, England: Palgrave McMillan.

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