Losing Cultures examines narratives around food territories, epitomised in the cherished French notion of terroir. At the heart is the invention of an indisputable correlation between ‘origin’ and ‘quality’ for food products, which is traced back to the French colonial project in Algeria. Competition between wine producers on either side of the Mediterranean led French policy-makers to establish protectionist terminologies at the beginning of the 20th century.
CLIMAVORE explores the advent of quality-controlled systems intertwined with the construction of territories driven by the need to circumscribe ‘French-ness’ in food-making, leading to a complex system of labels and certifications for the Protected Designation of Origin such as AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée) or IGP (Indication géographique protégée).
Losing Cultures takes this line of inquiry further by putting it to the test of climatic events and how they erode and reshape borders, modify flavours, and challenge the vocabulary used to describe products coming from changing landscapes. Wine producing regions in France are experiencing unprecedented droughts that are forcing them to either plant new varieties of drought-resistant grapes or shift the boundaries of their demarcated food region to cooler areas. Both strategies are currently forbidden by cultural landscape protection laws.
The work is composed of a sound piece presented in an immersive environment, echoing a natural ripening cave long since abandoned. Through a series of public workshops with experts in the fields of psycholinguistics, oenology, cheesemaking, history and anthropology, it seeks to create a new vocabulary that could connect the new characteristics of products emerging from these shifting landscapes under cultural and climatic crises.
A public performative tasting was held on 8 September 2018 led by meadow expert Sophie Hulin (INRA Aurillac), cheese geographer Claire Delfosse (Laboratoire d’Études Rurales, Université Lyon2), oenologist Sandrine Audegond (École du Vin de France), and PDO historian Florian Humbert. A selection of wines and cheeses helped differentiate misty from sunny valleys, north- and south-oriented river banks, years of heat waves, vegetation of different altitudes, and monoculture and polyculture pastures. Losing Cultures calls for a new lexicon, one that listens to how the sun speaks; when wine tastes like hot July and cheese like a flowerless prairie.