Fermentation and the Production of Place
Fermentation of foods and beverages is an ancient, globally omnipresent human tradition that is undergoing a contemporary resurgence.
From bourbon to bread, chocolate to cheese, kombucha to ketchup, vinegar to vanilla, and penicillin to prosciutto, many of our most-craved consumables are fermented. Dr. Colleen Myles, Texas State University associate professor of geography, coined the term “fermented landscapes” to describe how these growing craft alcohol industries are transforming local landscapes and cultures in a process that mirrors fermentation itself.
Craft beer, wine, and spirit producers emphasize their products’ connections to their physical and cultural communities of origin. As Myles puts it, “taste-making is a fundamental part of place-making,” and vice versa. For example, sommeliers often pair locally produced wine and locally grown food to create a harmonious representation of the area’s terroir.
All consumers, and particularly consumers of fermented alcohol products, tend to choose products that reinforce their own identities. The claim that a product is “local” is integral to establishing its authenticity and therefore enhancing its desirability.
This raises important questions about the very notion of authenticity. For example, is a wine aged and bottled in the Texas Hill Country, but made from grapes grown mainly in the Texas Panhandle or even California, truly a “local” wine? That question will ultimately be decided by consumers.
As fermentation-based industries bubble up across Texas, they will continue to change the landscape, benefitting from their association with the local and, simultaneously, changing the local into something new. Myles’ research — including her new book, entitled Fermented Landscapes, released in March 2020 — will help growers, producers, consumers, and community members alike understand and adapt to the ways fermentation industries are transforming Texas.
Texas is the fifth-largest wine producing state, with more than 400 wineries.
Texas has 275 craft breweries, making it the ninth-ranked state.
52% of craft beer consumers consider whether a beer is local in their purchasing decision.
Sources: texasfinewine.com; kvue.com; Holtkamp et al, Papers in Applied Geography (2016)
Accurate as of March 2020