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The Cultural Production of Terroir in the Midlands and North Region of Great Britain’s Wine Industry: Mapping the Present and Anticipating the Future

Sheffield Business School

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Prof J Smith-Maguire Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Fine wine production has historically been associated with ‘Old World,’ especially European countries. The production of those fine wine has a long-established link to intertwined quality assurance and provenance designation systems. Such systems tend to hinge on the categorisation and ranking of geographically-bounded sites or regions of production. These are often specific to producer countries, such as the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) system in France, or the Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) system in Italy. These systems attempt to define a unique link between the place and culture of production (e.g. soil, climate, topography, heritage) and the resulting wine, which is often captured by the concept of terroir in the context of French wines (Charters 2006). At the same time, systems of terroir classification are also critical devices for securing competitive advantage in the marketplace (Harvey 2002): they designate not just that a wine is from a particular place, but also set out why that wine cannot be made elsewhere and, ideally, make the case for why the wine is better than wine made elsewhere.

However, much has changed in the last 40 years. The development of cold-hardy vines, expansion of oenology courses, proliferation of ranking schemes, favourable perceptions of winemaking as a lifestyle occupation, changing consumer tastes and climate change are among many factors that have redrawn the global map of quality wine production (Fourcade 2012; Howland 2013). At the same time, the notion of terroir has been absorbed into marketing as a means of communicating identity and authenticity (Charters, Spielmann & Babin 2017), and folded within narratives of provenance for a range of food and drink entities, such as cheese, salt and tequila (Paxson 2010; Singer 2018; Bowen 2015). Producers in new and emerging wine regions are increasingly gaining recognition, credibility and success through quality claims based on provenance, which may be anchored by references to terroir and more broadly, narratives about how, when, where and by whom a product was made (Hills, Voronov & Hinings 2013; Smith Maguire 2018).
This project explores the development of representations of terroir in the context of the emerging winemaking industry of the Midlands and North of Great Britain.

Project aim:
The aim of this project is to document the current status and future potential of representations of terroir as drivers of quality production and competitiveness for wines made in the Midlands and North region of Great Britain (Cheshire, Cumbria, Derbyshire, Durham & Northumbria, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Rutland, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, West Midlands, Worcestershire, Yorkshire, Scotland, Northern Ireland).

Project objectives:
• Categorize major themes in current representations of terroir, as circulated via winery promotional material (labelling, websites, brochures).
• Establish how wine producers in the Midlands and North region understand and translate their terroir for the marketplace.
• Identify emergent commonalities among producers as leverage points for future development.

Interpretive research utilizing media analysis, focus groups and/or semi-structured interviews.

To apply for a self-funded PhD, you will need to meet our entry requirements and provide:
1. fully completed Sheffield Hallam University application form
2. research proposal (4-6 sides of A4 in length).
3. transcript of marks from your highest qualification (we require a dissertation mark of 60+).
4. copy of your award certificates
5. two references, one ideally from an academic source. References must be supplied as recent letters on headed notepaper or on the reference section on the University’s application form.
6. Where English is not your first language, we require evidence of your English language ability to the following minimum level of proficiency. An IELTS score of 7.0 overall (with all component marks of 6.5 or higher), a TOEFL test with an overall score of 100 internet based (minimum component score of 23 in listening and reading, 26 in writing and 22 in speaking) or SHU TESOL English Language qualification (final overall grade of A with all components graded at B or higher) or a recognised equivalent testing system. Your test score must be within the last two years.
Information on entry requirements, tuition fees and other costs can be found here

How to apply
Please submit your application to [Email Address Removed]

Applicants wishing to be considered for:
• February 2020 entry: submit your application by 12pm November 22nd 2019
• May 2020 entry: submit your application by 12pm February 22nd 2020
• October 2020 entry: submit your application by 12pm June 22nd 2020

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project. The applicant will need to fund their own tuition fees, research costs and living expenses. Information on tuition fees, research and other costs can be found at


Bowen, S. 2015. Divided Spirits: Tequila, Mezcal, and the Politics of Production. Oakland: University of California Press.
Charters, S. 2006. Wine & Society: The Social and Cultural Context of a Drink. Oxford: Elsevier.
Charters, S., Spielmann, N. & Babin, B. 2017. The nature and value of terroir products. European Journal of Marketing 51(4): 748-771.
Fourcade, M. 2012. The vile and the noble: On the relation between natural and social classifications in the French wine world. The Sociological Quarterly 53(4): 524–545.
Harvey, D. 2002. The art of rent: Globalization, monopoly and the commodification of culture. Socialist Register 38: 93–110.
Hills, S. Voronov, M. & Hinings, C.R. 2013. Putting new wine in old bottles: Utilizing rhetorical history to overcome stigma associated with a previously dominant logic. Research in the Sociology of Organizations 39B: 411-49.
Howland, P.J. 2013. Distinction by proxy: The democratization of fine wine. Journal of Sociology 49(2–3): 325–340.
Paxson, H. 2010. Locating value in artisan cheese: Reverse engineering terroir for new-world landscapes. American Anthropologist 112(3): 444-57.
Singer, A. 2018. Strategies of distinction: Aesthetic materiality and restrained discourse. Poetics 67: 26-38.
Smith Maguire, J. 2018. The taste for the particular: A logic of discernment in an age of omnivorousness. Journal of Consumer Culture 18(1): 3-20

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