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Poetics 33 (2005) 179–200 www.elsevier.com/locate/poetic Understanding classifications: Empirical evidence from the
Poetics 33 (2005) 179–200 www.elsevier.com/locate/poetic Understanding classifications: Empirical evidence from the

Poetics 33 (2005) 179–200

Poetics 33 (2005) 179–200 www.elsevier.com/locate/poetic Understanding classifications: Empirical evidence from the

www.elsevier.com/locate/poetic

Understanding classifications: Empirical evidence from the American and French wine industries

Wei Zhao

Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 9201 University City Boulevard, Charlotte, NC 28223-0001, USA

Abstract

This article compares the classification systems between the American and French wine industries and reveals striking differences: American wines are classified primarily by grape variety, while French wines are classified primarily by appellation based on geographic origin; the classification in appellation is horizontally structured in the American wine industry, while it is vertically structured in the French wine industry. These findings demonstrate that classification systems are socially constructed. Building upon the literature and drawing empirical evidence from these two wine industries, this article develops several theoretical arguments on implications and consequences of classifications. First, classifications confer identities on social actors (or objects), and inherently imply social control. Second, classifications create social boundaries and signify social standing of actors (or objects). Third, classification making often involves political struggles between different interest groups, and classification systems embody the political power. This article further presents a sociological framework to understand classifications, stressing the multi-dimensionality and complexity of classifications. Finally, it discusses the significance of the study of classification in sociology and, in particular, its relations with several prominent lines of research in cultural sociology. # 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Classifications have attracted much attention from scholars across disciplines, including science (e.g., Sokal, 1974 ), information science (e.g., Bowker and Star, 1999 ), psychology (e.g., Estes, 1994; Hahn and Ramscar, 2001 ), and anthropology (e.g., Douglas, 1986; Douglas and Hull, 1992 ). It has been well acknowledged that classifications are the basis to all intellectual activities and a world without classifications will be chaotic and unthinkable (e.g., Douglas, 1986; Estes, 1994 ). Sociologists also have a lasting interest in classification. There are mainly two trends in the sociological literature related to the study of classification. First, across a variety of research areas

E-mail address: wzhao1@email.uncc.edu.

0304-422X/$ – see front matter # 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

doi:10.1016/j.poetic.2005.09.010

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sociologists have developed specific classification schemes (e.g., the classification of social class,

see Drudy, 1991 ; the classification of authors by literary prestige, see Verboord, 2003 ) or applied existing categories to sociological explanations (e.g., occupational categories in the study of occupational structure and prestige, see Blau and Duncan, 1967 ; categories of musical genres in the analysis of taste differentiation and social boundaries, see Sonnet, 2004; Van Eijck, 2001 ). In this trend, classification schemes are a useful research tool or an important part of a specific theoretical framework in sociological explanations. Nevertheless, classifications per se are not the ultimate research focus and many studies treat classifications as exogenous variables ( Lounsbury and Rao, 2004 ). The second trend focuses on examining classifications in the social world—their origins,

´

structures, and consequences. This trend can be traced back to E mile Durkheim. The representative work was Durkheim and Mauss’ Primitive Classification published in 1903. Although there have been quite some criticisms of this work, the significance of its research topic and its ground-breaking contribution are well recognized ( Coser, 1988 ). For example, in the intellectual biography of Durkheim, Lukes (1972:449 ; quoted in Coser, 1988 :87) asserted ‘‘that the role played in particular societies by particular sets of concepts and classifications is a central area of sociological and anthropological inquiry.’’ In the introduction of the English translation of

Primitive Classification , Needham (1963:xxxiv) acknowledged: ‘‘The theoretical significance of the essay secures it a prominent place as a sociological classic. Its great merit, and one which outweighs all its faults, is that it draws attention, for the first time in sociological inquiry, to a topic of fundamental importance in understanding human thought and social life, i.e., the notion of classification.’’ In recent years, sociologists have shown a resurgent interest in studying classifications. For example, Schwartz (1981) analyzed the vertical classifica tion codes in language and social images, and he demonstrated their roles in constr ucting the social world and in creating social inequality. Zerubavel (1991, 1997) adopted a socio-cognitive approach to understand how classifications are made and how meanings are achieved in mental processes. Starr (1992) examined how the state made classifications in the political arena and employed them to implement soc ial policies. Lounsbury and Rao (2004) investigated the important role of industry media and powerful producers in categor y reconstitution in the American mutual fund industry. The study of classification also takes a prominent place in cultural sociology. DiMaggio (1982a, 1982b) analyzed the historical process of differentiating the ‘‘high’’ culture from the ‘‘popular’’ culture in 19th-century Boston. He emphasized the institutional and organizational bases of this cultural classification. In a more theoretical work, DiMaggio (1987) examined different types (i.e., commercial, professional, and administrative) of classification in art and the variation in artistic classification systems in several aspects such as differentiation, hierarchy, universality, and ritual strength. Mohr and Duquenne (1997) mapped out the classification structure in poverty relief in the late 19th and early 20th century and demonstrated the close relations between cultural distinctions and social practices. All these studies have greatly deepened our understanding of classifications from a sociological perspective. These achievements notwithstanding, ubiquity, complexity, and the central role of classification in modern society warrant more sociological research and continuous endeavor. This study advances the sociological research of classification in two main aspects. First, in the context of American and French wine industries, this paper conducts a comparative study of classification systems—that is still rare in the literature. Empirically it demonstrates differences as well as similarities in the classification system between these two

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industries. Second, this article draws upon prior studies and theories (e.g., Douglas, 1986 ) to develop several general theoretical arguments and a sociological framework on classifications. This paper is organized as follows. First, I compare the classification systems between the American and French wine industries. Next, I develop several general arguments on the implications and consequences of classification systems—conferring identities, exerting social control, creating social boundaries, signifying social standing, and involving political processes—and draw empirical evidence from the two wine industries. Then, I present a sociological framework to understand the complexity and multi-dimensionality of classifica- tions. Finally, I discuss the significance of the study of classification in sociology and, in particular, its close relations with several prominent lines of research in cultural sociology.

1. Classifications in the American and French wine industries

The wine world has distinctive features to make it an ideal place to study classifications. Wines are complex. Customers are confronted with hundreds of wines each time they enter a wine shop

or a wine aisle in a grocery store. Customers rely on categories in a classification scheme to

identify a bottle of wine and make their purchase decision. Accordingly, classifications are the core part of the whole regulation system and play a central role in sustaining the wine market. The American and the French wine industries are prominent in the wine world. 1 Interestingly,

we find American wines and French wines are displayed differently on wine shelves. The display

of American wines is based on grape variety (e.g., Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir,

Syrah, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc), while that of French wines is based on

geographic origin (e.g., Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhoˆ ne, and Loire). Why is there such a big

difference? The reason lies in the distinct classification systems across these two wine industries.

A comparative study will illustrate the similarities and differences in the classification system

between these two industries and demonstrate the social origin of classifications. The American wine industry is young and has experienced tremendous changes in history. Before the 1970s, American wines were regarded as cheap dessert wines with inferior taste. Since the 1970s, the American wine industry expanded dramatically. 2 American wines, in particular, California wines, began to earn international recognition. Accompanying these changes, the classification system as a core part of the whole regulation system was developed in the U.S. wine

industry. Although a state has the right to pass the wine law and regulations ( Moulton, 1984 ), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (hereafter ATF) is the principal governmental agency authorized to regulate the wine industry and to control the classification system at the federal level. For example, in 1978 ATF established the appellation system to classify geographic origins

of U.S. wines.

The French wine industry has a long, glorious history. In France, several major vine regions have planted grapes and produced wines for more than a millennium. After long experimentation and experience in wine making, specialization has been accomplished. The core of the classification and regulation system in the French wine industry is the appellation system that can

1 In 2001, the United States ranked 4th in wine production, 3rd in wine consumption, and 5th in vineyard acreage; France ranked 1st in wine production and wine consumption and 2nd in vineyard acreage (‘‘Industry Background & Statistics,’’ the web site of the Wine Institute ( http://www.wineinstitute.org)).

2 Wine consumption in the U.S. has increased from 267 million gallons (1.31 gallons per resident) in 1970 to 551 million gallons (2.02 gallons per resident) in 1999. The number of wineries in the U.S. has increased from 441 in 1970 to 2443 in 1999 (‘‘Industry Background & Statistics,’’ the web site of the Wine Institute ( http://www.wineinstitute.org )).

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be traced back to the first official classification of red Bordeaux wines in 1855. The contemporary appellation system was enacted in 1935 and has been under the strict control of Institut National des Appellations (INAO), the principal governmental agency in regulating the French wine industry.

1.1. Classification schemes in the American and French wine industries

There are different types of wines in the market, such as grape wines, dessert wines, sparkling wines, and fortified wines ( ATF 27 & 4.21 ; Peters, 1997 :111). Here, I mainly focus on the official classifications of grape wines, the representative and the most important wine type. Although grape variety, geographic origin (appellation), and vintage all play an important role in classifying both American wines and French grape wines, there are conspicuous differences in scheme and structure between these two official classification systems. American wines are classified primarily by grape variety, while French wines are classified primarily by geographic origin ( Douglas, 1986 :105–107; Laube, 1999 :16; Shanken, 2000 :815). Table 1 contrasts the classification systems between the American and French wine industries.

1.1.1. Grape variety/grape type Grape variety plays a different role in the classification system in these two industries. Grape variety is the primary dimension of classifying American wines. Based on grape variety, American wines are classified as generic wines, proprietary wines, and varietal wines ( Peters, 1997 ; see also Baxevanis, 1992 ). If a wine is heavily blended of different grape varieties and thus has no grape identification or only a generic name (e.g., red, white), it is a generic wine. If a wine uses some name invented by its winery (e.g., ‘‘Opus One’’), it is a proprietary wine. If a bottle of wine is designated an officially recognized grape variety (e.g., Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Chardonnay), it is a varietal wine. To claim a varietal wine, a wine needs to derive no less than 75% of its volume from a specific grape variety ( ATF 27 & 4.23 ). Since the designation of grape variety is the primary dimension of classifying American wines, the name of a specific grape variety is often put on the wine label. The prominent place of grape variety in the classification of American wines lies in that there is no single restriction on grape variety. American winemakers can freely experiment and plant whatever grape variety they like in various vine regions ( Shanken, 2000; Thompson, 1984 ). Consequently, planted grape varieties are much more dispersed in the United States than in France ( Moran, 1993 ). By comparison, in the French wine industry the grape variety is not an independent dimension in wine classification, but is rather subordinate to the appellation classification based on geographic origin. In France, grape varieties are restricted to specific vine regions, and the distribution of grape varieties is highly regionalized ( Moran, 1993 ). For example, more than 70% of Cabernet Sauvignon is produced in Bordeaux, while Pinot Noir is almost entirely confined to Burgundy and Champagne ( Moran, 1993 ). Moreover, each vine area has focused on a few grape varieties that are believed to be suitable for the geographic environment and climate. In most regional appellations, the number of authorized varieties is less than five. There are strict regulations on the planting and yield of grape variety in each appellation. Interestingly, in many instances, heavy blending authorized grape varieties within the same appellation is legitimate and has even become a common practice in some vine areas. Since the grape variety is attached to the appellation, the name of a grape variety is normally not inscribed on the label of a bottle of French wine. Conventionally, in the market French wines are categorized simply as red wines and white wines based on the general grape type and wine color.

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Table 1 A comparison of classification systems between the American and French wine industries

Wine classification

American wine industry

French wine industry

Grape variety/grape type Categories

Role in the classification system Labeling

Appellation

Categories

Role in the classification system Structure of classification Extensiveness of classification

Vintage

Specific grape variety Generic wine Proprietary wine Varietal wine Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Pinot Noir Syrah Zinfandel Chardonnay Sauvignon Blanc Other types (for the complete list of the approved grape varieties, see ATF 27 & 4.91). Primary dimension in wine classification

The proprietary name or the name of a specific grape variety often shown on the wine label

Geographic origin (1) The United States (2) A State; two or no more than three States which are all contiguous (3) A county; two or no more than three counties in the same States (4) An American viticultural area

Secondary dimension in wine classification Horizontal classification No official classification of vineyards

The year when grapes are harvested

General grape type and wine color Red wine White wine

Subordinate to the appellation classification The grape’s name normally not shown on the wine label

Geographic origin (1) Vins de Table (VCC) (2) Vins de Pays

(3) Vins De´ limite´ s de Qualite´ Supe´ rieure (VDQS) (4) Appellation d’Origine Controˆ le´ e (AOC)

(a)

Regional AOC

(b)

Communal/village AOC

(c)

Premier cru and grand

cru in Burgundy; fifth- to first-growth in Bordeaux Primary dimension in wine classification Vertical classification Some vineyards being officially classified

The year when grapes are harvested

1.1.2. Appellation (geographic origin) Although the classification in appellation is important in both industries, it plays different roles in the classification system and has different structures. Appellation is the secondary dimension of classifying American wines, and the appellation system in the American wine industry is horizontally structured. In the classification of appellation, the designation categories for wines produced in the U.S. consist of ‘‘the United States,’’ a state (i.e., ‘‘California’’), two or no more than three States which are all contiguous, a county (e.g., ‘‘Sonoma County’’), two or no more than three counties in the same States, and an American Viticultural Area (e.g., ‘‘Napa Valley’’) (ATF 27 & 4.25 ). The state and the county appellations are based on current political

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divisions or subdivisions. A wine can claim a st ate appellation or a county appellation on its label if no less than 75% of the grapes used to produce the wine come from the designated area. In contrast, American Viticultural Areas (hereafter AVA) are spe cially designed for the wine industry, and only AVA needs to get the governmental approval. Moreover, affiliation with an AVA appellation requires a higher standard: no less than 85% of the wine must be derived from the grapes grown within that viticultural area ( ATF 27 & 4.25 ). Thus, AVA appellation is a kind of certificate in the American wine industry. Nevertheless, there is no officially recognized hierarchy among different appellation categories. ‘‘ATF does not wish to give the impression by approving a viticultura l area that it is approving or endorsing the quality of the wine from this area’’; ‘‘ATF approves a viticultural area by a finding that the area is distinctive from surrounding areas, but not better than other areas ’’ (quoted in Lee, 1992 :6; italics are added). By comparison, appellation is the hub of the whole classification system in the French wine industry and is vertically organized. In the French appellation system, a high-ranked appellation is officially recognized to be superior to a low-ranked appellation in producing wines with better quality (see Foulkes, 1994 ). Following an ascending order, designation categories consist of Vins de Table (VCC), Vins de Pays, Vins De´ limite´ s de Qualite´ Supe´ rieure (VDQS), and Appellation d’Origine Controˆ le´ e (AOC). Among them, Appellation d’Origine Controˆ le´ e (AOC) is the core and the top designation category of the whole appellation system. The designations within AOC are further classified and stratified, in an ascending order, from a regional AOC (e.g., Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Rhoˆ ne), to a communal or village AOC (e.g., Pauillac in Bordeaux, Beaujolais in Burgundy), and to a premier cru and a grand cru for vineyards in Burgundy and a fifth- to a first- growth in Bordeaux (Coates, 2000; Moran, 1993 ). The appellation classification in the French wine industry is more sophisticated and refined than that in the American wine industry. In the United States the official appellation classification does not exceed the level of a vine area, i.e., AVA. Although vineyards can be designated on the wine label, they are not officially recognized as a distinct category of appellation. In contrast, in France many vineyards are classified as a premier cru , a grand cru , or a growth with a high rank in the hierarchical appellation system.

1.1.3. Vintage In both industries, vintage, the year when grapes are harvested for winemaking, is an important dimension of classifying wines. Vintage-dating has a long tradition in the French wine industry, while it is relative new in the American wine industry. In the American wine industry, to claim a vintage requires that at least 95% of the wine must have been derived from grapes harvested in the labeled calendar year ( ATF 27 & 4.27 ).

1.2. Classifications and beliefs

What determines the classificatory schemes and structures in the classification systems of these wine industries? A classification system expresses social values and embodies beliefs. The similarities in the classification system between these two wine industries—using grape variety, appellation, and vintage for classification—reflect the shared values. In both industries, a good wine is regarded as having a distinctive taste, being an authentic expression of the grape variety and conveying a sense of place where the grape is grown ( Laube, 1999 ). A wine’s good taste is regarded as a result of the combination of specific grape variety, geographic environment (‘‘terroir ’’), and climate and weather condition (vintage). Since grape variety, geographic origin

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(appellation), and vintage are believed to be important factors in winemaking, they become the crucial dimensions of classifying both American and French wines. On the other hand, the conspicuous differences in the classification system between these two industries—the prominent place of grape variety or appellation in wine classification, the scheme of classification in grape variety or general grape type, and the horizontal or vertical structure of classification in appellation—can be attributed to distinct beliefs and traditions in winemaking resulted from different historical development. The regulations and classifications in the young American wine industry are relatively loose and characterized by laissez-faire policies (Moran, 1993 ). In the American wine industry, wine production (e.g., planting of grape varieties) and consumption are more subject to self- regulations of the market. Consumers, rather than a governmental agency, are entitled to make the final judgment on wines ( Seff and Cooney, 1984 :445). Although American winemakers also celebrate ‘‘ terroir ’’ under the influence of the French tradition, they put more emphasis on scientific methods in winemaking than their counterparts in France (Peters, 1997 ). Without a strong historical tradition, American winemakers have widely carried out experiments to plant a number of grape varieties within each vine region and across regions. Consistent with these beliefs, the grape variety is prominent in the classification system, and the classification of appellation is horizontally structured. The philosophy and tradition of winemaki ng in France are quite different and can be epitomized in one word, terroir. As a mythic and holistic concept, terroir refers to the distinctive and inimitable environment of a spec ific vineyard, which includes characteristics of altitude, slope, soil content, drainage, exposure to sun, and ambient climate, etc. ( Wine Spectator, on-line). Moreover, it also relates s trongly to history, class, and pedigree ( Langewiesche, 2000 ). The French believe that distinct terroirs produce different wines— physical environmental attributes can be liber ally and uncritically t ransferred to the wines made there. The belief in terroir results in the prominent classification along the geographic origin and the vertical structure in the classi fication of appellation. Moreover, the French believe that one terroir is only suitable for one or few particular grape varieties. As a result, the grape variety is subordinate and attached to terroir, rather than taken as an independent dimension in the wine classification. These belie fs have been crystalliz ed into the tradition in the long history of winemaking and eventually into the contemporary official classification system in the French wine industry.

2. Implications and consequences of classifications

Drawing upon the prior research of classification, in particular, the institutional perspective adopted by Douglas (1986) , I develop several theoretical arguments on implications and consequences of classifications. Then I situate the empirical examination in the context of the American and French wine industries.

2.1. Conferring identity and exerting social control

I concur with Douglas (1986) on that institutional classifications confer identity. More specifically, classifications provide the cognitive basis for both the identification of focal actors (or objects) and audiences’ perceptions of focal actors (or objects). From the perspective of focal actors (or objects)—the subject of classifications, all identity types are based on authorized categories. ‘‘The institutions make new labels, and the label makes new kinds of people’’

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( Douglas, 1986 :109). Association with a specific category not only reveals one’s identity, but more deeply, constitutes one’s identity ( Douglas, 1986 ). In this sense, when institutions classify focal actors (or objects), they impose specific marks and put specific constraints on their identity expression. From the perspective of audiences, institutional classifications systematically channel audiences’ perceptions of focal actors (or of objects) into authorized categories. Audiences rely on classification schemes and delimited boundaries to identify actors (or objects) ( Abbott, 1995; Douglas, 1986 ). 3 Every identity implies effort of social control (White, 1992 ). When classifications confer identities on focal actors (or objects) and channel audiences’ perceptions into authorized categories, they exert social control by preventing other possibilities ( Berger and Luckmann, 1966; Douglas, 1986 ). Once classifications have been made, the behavior of both focal actors and audiences will conform to them. Laid upon our mind as an ‘‘institutional grip’’ ( Douglas, 1986 :92), classifications exert a kind of ‘‘sociomental control,’’ ‘‘one of the most insidious forms of social control’’ ( Zerubavel, 1997 :17). The classification systems in the American and French wine industries explicitly monitor wines’ ‘‘identities.’’ Since a wine label is crucial to the identification of a bottle of wine, in both industries wine labeling is under strict regulation in accordance with the classification schemes:

appellation (geographic origin) and vintage are normally put on the label of both American and French wines, and grape variety is also often shown on the label of the former. Those institutional standards (such as those for a wine to claim a varietal designation, an appellation, or a vintage in the American wine industry) are strictly implemented. By so doing, the classification systems in both industries exert direct control of a wine’s identification and consumers’ perception of a bottle of wine. Actually, the main driving force of inventing the classification system in both industries was to control wines’ identities. In the United States, the purpose of establishing the appellation system, and in particular, the American Viticultural Areas (AVA appellations), was to allow consumers to better identify a bottle of wine and winemakers to better designate the geographic origin of grapes used in winemaking (ATF, 1986 :2–3). In France, the driving force of establishing an appellation system in the early 20th century was to deal with fake wines and to protect the existing prestigious vine areas ( Coates, 2000; Loube` re, 1990; Moran, 1993 ). Two graphs used by Douglas (1986:106–107) vividly demonstrate that different classifications result in distinct identification patterns of wines in these two industries. As shown in Douglas’ (1986:107) graph on the American wine industry, each of six wineries in Napa County—one of the most prestigious grape-grown areas in the United States—used a number of grape varieties in wine production. Because the grape variety is the primary dimension of classification in the American wine industry, a specific grape variety is a crucial identity marker for American wines. In addition, an appellation designation (e.g., ‘‘Napa Valley,’’ ‘‘St. Helena,’’ or ‘‘Yountville’’ as an AVA appellation)—the secondary dimension of wine classification—is also an important indictor of a wine’s identity. Consumers rely on the categories of grape variety and of appellation inscribed on the label to identity a bottle of American wine. In the French wine industry, wines are classified primarily by geographic origin. Thus, the appellation affiliation is the most important identity indicator of a bottle of wine. Douglas ’ (1986:106) graph showed six prestigious winemakers in Bordeaux, Chaˆ teau Haut-Brion, Chaˆ teau

3 Here, I use identity broadly not only to indicate the identity of a social actor (e.g., an individual or an organization) but also to refer to the social image of an object or a product (e.g., a bottle of wine).

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Petrus, Chaˆ teau Lafite (or Lafite-Rothschild), Chaˆ teau Latour, Chaˆ teau Mouton (or Mouton- Rothschild), and Chaˆ teau Margaux. Except Chaˆ teau Petrus, each chateau is classified as a first- growth (the top ranked appellation category) within a communal AOC (i.e., Graves, Pomerol, Pauillac, and Margaux) in Bordeaux. The appellation shown on the wine label largely determines a wine’s identity and shapes consumers’ perception of that wine. In contrast, the grape variety is normally attached to an appellation. As shown in this graph, each chateau mainly used one or two grape varieties authorized within that appellation in winemaking. Moreover, because the name of a grape variety is normally not shown on the label of a bottle of French wine, all these wines are perceived simply as red wines in the market. As a result, a specific grape variety usually does not affect consumer perception of a bottle of French wine.

2.2. Creating social boundaries and signifying social standing

Classifications systematically create, formalize, and maintain social boundaries among social actors (or objects). Because classification channels social perceptions, audiences tend to overlook the differences within categories and to widen gaps between categories (Zerubavel, 1996 ). In a sense, classifications lead to ‘‘social construction of discontinuity’’ ( Zerubavel, 1991 :74). For example, the racial classification schemes used in the US census created racial boundaries. Some racial categories such as ‘‘White’’ were created. When all European immigrants were counted as ‘‘White’’ by the census, it fostered a common racial identity among ‘‘Whites,’’ while hardened the division between ‘‘Whites’’ and ‘‘Others.’’ When racial categories in the US census expanded or shrank, the racial identity types of Americans changed and the racial boundaries were re- delimited accordingly ( Lee, 1993 ). Classifications not only create social boundaries but also often result in differentiation in social standing among actors (or objects). 4 A classification does not simply arrange several isolated groups, but rather defines the relationships between them and describes the whole structure (Bourdieu, 1984; Durkheim and Mauss, 1903 [1963]; Sokal, 1974 ). In a sense, a classification presents or confirms a social order with specific meanings and legitimacy. Because classifications are based on specific standards and embody social values, they ossify and accentuate the differences in social significance among actors (or objects). Moreover, social classifications are often formalized by institutional regulations or law. Such formality preserves the substance, and at the same time, brings classification schemes an authoritative appearance ( Stinchcombe, 2001 ). ‘‘It is of the essence of formality that most people most of the time do not have to go behind the formality to the substance, because someone else can be trusted to have done so already and to do so again when necessary ’’ ( Stinchcombe, 2001 :4). In this sense, formalization of classification confirms and objectifies differences in social significance and standing among actors (or objects). Attachment to categories expressing core values, meeting a high standard, or earning institutional ‘‘badges’’ (e.g., certificates, credentials, prizes, titles, and awards), distinguishes one from others and enhances one’s social standing. For example, in the hypothesis testing in statistical analysis, the conventional standards (i.e., p -value as 0.05, 0.01, and 0.001) categorize

4 Some classifications based on function and characterized by horizontal grouping (e.g., the classification of scientific disciplines as physics, chemistry, and biology, etc.) may not result in a clear differentiation in social standing. Nevertheless, the distinction between horizontal and vertical classifications is not always clear-cut. A seemingly horizontal classification (e.g., in gender, race, and position [right and left]) may still imply or result in a differentiation in social standing (cf. Schwartz, 1981:166).

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results into different significance levels. Practically, two results with p -value as 0.049 and 0.051, respectively, have no substantial difference in terms of the probability of occurrence. However, based on the standards, the difference is tremendous: the former is conventionally regarded to be statistically significant, while the latter insignificant. Another example is the three-point line in the basketball game. Prior to the official classification, there is no substantial difference between shooting a ball from 24 0 and from 23 0 8 00 . However, after setting 23 0 9 00 as the three-point arc, a shot from the former is worth three points, while a shot from the latter only two (Purcell, 1996 :445). The third example is the role of gold, silver, and bronze medals in the Olympic game. Even if there is no substantial difference in performance between medal winners and other athletes, the medals distinguish the former from the later. Even if there is only trivial difference in performance among those medal winners, the gold, silver, and bronze medals still further differentiate their social standing. In previous studies, it is well acknowledged that the high-status group strives to maintain the social boundaries between itself and the low-status group through different ways (see Lamont, 2001 ). For example, Veblen (1899 [1965]) found that the high-status group used conspicuous consumption and leisure to demonstrate its high social standing. Meyer (1977) pointed out that when the education classification system distinguishes elite from others largely by educational credentials, it endows the elite with social prestige. DiMaggio (1982a:39) asserted: ‘‘In almost every literate society, dominant status groups or classes eventually have developed their own styles of art and the institutional means of supporting them.’’ In 19th-century Boston, the upper class distinguished the ‘‘high culture’’ from the ‘‘popular culture’’ and employed this cultural classification to separate itself from the lower class. Bourdieu (1984) showed that the upper class in France developed distinct aesthetic dispositions to secure its high social status. Following these arguments, I contend that the high-status social group always strives to control the classification system and to claim t he desirable categories in order to signify and consolidate its high social standing. In this st udy, I examine how premium wines in the high- status market rely on desirable categories in the classification of grape variety, appellation, and vintage to reveal their identities and to signify their standing. 5 The main empirical evidence is based on two data sets consisti ng of 4894 California wines—the acknowledged leader of the American wine industry 6 —and 3795 French wines, respectively. The data were collected from Wine Spectator, the most popular wine magazine (please refer to Appendix A for the procedures of data collection). Based on these two samples of American and French wines drawn from the high-status premium market, I examine the composition and characteristics of the classified information shown on the w ine label. The results are reported in Table 2 . It should be noted that the results are not conclusive but rather suggestive. I supplement the descriptive analysis with anecdotal evidence in these two wine industries to support my arguments.

5 The term of ‘‘premium’’ is used rather loosely in the wine market. According to one categorization, wines as ‘‘everyday beverage’’ are priced below $7 per bottle, ‘‘super premium’’ wines priced $7–14, ‘‘ultra premium’’ wines priced $14–25, and ‘‘luxury’’ wines priced $25 and over (see ‘‘2000 California Table Wine Shipments by Price Segment,’’ http://www.WineryExchange.com). 6 California wines are dominant in the American wine industry. In 1998, California accounted for 90% of all U.S. wine production, 70% of all wine consumption in the U.S. (including imported wine), and 96% of U.S. wine exports (‘‘California Wine Industry Statistical Highlights,’’ the web site of the Wine Institute ( http://www.wineinstitute.org )). Among 2443 wineries in the U.S. in 1999, 1210 wineries were in California. Among 145 American Viticultural Areas (AVA) established in the U.S. by 2002, 85 were in California.

 

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Table 2 Classified information shown on the label of the sampled California and French premium wines

 

California wines

French wines

Classification

N

%

Classification

N

%

Total number of wines

4894

100

Total number of wines

3795

100

Grape variety Generic wine No grape identification ‘‘Red’’ ‘‘White’’ Proprietary wine Varietal wine Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Pinot Noir Syrah Zinfandel Chardonnay Sauvignon Blanc Other grape varieties

Appellation affiliation No appellation ‘‘America’’ California (or another state) County AVA

 

Grape type a Red wine White wine

2119

56

103

2

1676

44

16

0

6

0

293

6

1289

26

358

7

446

9

82

2

380

8

1238

25

230

5

453

9

Appellation affiliation Vin de Table AOC:

 

1

0

3

0

5

0

 

282

6

Regional AOC Communal/Village AOC Premier cru (Burgundy) Grand cru (Burgundy) Fifth- to second-growth (Bordeaux) First growth (Bordeaux)

56

1

785

16

1560

41

3821

78

658

17

 

623

16

262

7

633

17

Vintage

Vintage

Vintage-dating

4858

99

Vintage-dating

3748

99

No vintage-dating

36

1

No vintage-dating

47

1

a French wines are conventionally classified by the general grape type—red or white, and the name of grape variety is normally not shown on the wine label. The exception is Alsace wines that often indicate the specific grape variety (e.g., Riesling, Gewu¨ rztraminer, Sylvaner) on the wine label. Since Alsace wines do not hold a prominent place in the premium wine market and take only a small proportion of the sample (7%), I do not report the detailed grape varieties for these Alsace wines in the table.

2.2.1. Grape variety as a signifier of social standing in the American wine industry Because the grape variety is the primary dimension of classifying American wines, claiming a specific grape variety is crucial to a wine’s standing in the American wine industry. As shown in Table 2 , among the sampled 4894 California wines in the premium market, only 2% (103 wines) did not identify any grape variety on the wine label, and only 16 and 6 wines were labeled ‘‘red’’ and ’’white’’, respectively. Six percent wines in the sample used a proprietary name invented by wineries. By comparison, a vast majority (92%) of wines were varietal wines by inscribing a specific grape variety on the label. Since generic wines without any grape variety identification are normally regarded as inferior, claiming a grape variety is essential to be perceived as a good

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wine. In order to claim a grape variety, heavy blending of different types of grape—a common practice in many French vine regions—is usually forgone for making premium American wines. In the French wine industry, since the grape variety is subordinate to the appellation classification and a grape’s name is usually not shown on the wine label, a specific grape variety is not an important signifier of a wine’s standing. As shown in Table 2 , French wines are con- ventionally identified simply as red wines and white wines, accounting for 56% and 44% of the sample, respectively.

2.2.2. Appellation as a signifier of social standing Among the sampled 4894 California wines in the high-status premium market, only one type of wine did not claim any appellation and five wines claimed an ‘‘America’’ appellation. Six percent wines were affiliated with a ‘‘California’’ appellation or another state appellation (e.g., ‘‘Washington’’ or ‘‘Oregon’’). Sixteen percent wines were affiliated with a county appellation. By comparison, 78% wines bore an American Viticultural Area (AVA) designation. Since an AVA is usually much smaller than a county appellation and even smaller than a state appellation, 7 theoretically, any wine that is eligible to bear an AVA designation can select a county appellation, a state appellation, or an ‘‘America’’ appellation. Nevertheless, the finding shows that in the premium California wine market, wines are overwhelmingly affiliated with a more desirable AVA appellation. The reason is obvious: the AVA appellation is an important indicator of a wine’s identity and thus signifies a wine’s standing in the market. Although there is no official hierarchy among appellation categories, an AVA appellation presents a kind of certificate to and imposes a geographical significance on a bottle of wine. Moreover, theoretically only a small amount of wines are eligible to claim an AVA appellation. Therefore, wines having an AVA affiliation ‘‘can be a valuable distinction from other wines in the marketplace’’ (Lee, 1992 :1). Anecdotal evidence also shows that in order to keep a precious appellation affiliation, winemakers would rather not blend grapes from different vine regions even if the blending can improve wine quality (see footnote 7, Benjamin and Podolny, 1999 :586). Similar to the pattern among Ca lifornia wines, appellation a ffiliations of premium French wines concentrate on high-status appellatio n categories. Among the sampled 3795 French wines in the premium market, only three wines were affiliated with low-ranked ‘‘Vin de Table’’ and all others bore an AOC designation. Among these AOC wines, only 56 wines were affiliated with a ‘‘regional AOC.’’ By compari son, 1560 (41%) wines were affiliated with a communal or a village AOC. Moreover, a large proportion of French wines were affiliated with top-ranked appellation categories: 17% and 16% wines were affiliated with the premiums crus and grands crus in Burgundy, respectively; 7% and 17% wines were affiliated with fifth- to second-growths and first-growths in Bordeaux, respectively. Apparently, high-ranked appellation categories have a large presenta tion among appellation affiliations of French premium wines. 8 Since the vertical classification stratifies French wines into different categories, affiliation with high-ranked appellation signifies and enhances the standing of a winery and its wines. For

7 For example, by 1992, Napa County and Sonoma County had 8 and 12 AVAs, respectively.

8 In the whole French wine industry, only more than 30% of the French wines were entitled to an AOC designation toward the end of the 20th century (Foulkes, 1994:132). The other designation categories below AOC, Vins De´ limite´ s de Qualite´ Supe´ rieure (VDQS), Vins de Pays, and Vins de Table (VCC) represent about 1%, 15%, and 55%, respectively, of wine production in France ( Foulkes, 1994:134–135).

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example, in Bordeaux, many good wineries receive less attention and reap less profits simply because they are not classified as a growth . In contrast, many Chaˆ teaus, which do not deserve their classification as a growth , receive more attention and respect ( Parker, 1998 :1339–1342). Thus, obtaining a higher-ranked appellation enables wines to acquire higher standing in the French wine industry (Loube` re, 1990 ). An example is Chaˆ teauneuf-du-Pape in Southern Rhoˆ ne. To combat fake wines and enhance the image of those wines from this region, local winemakers sought to obtain an official appellation as a means of identifying and promoting their authentic wines. Only after Chaˆ teauneuf-du-Pape was approved as a new appellation, did its wines gradually receive high recognition in the wine market (see Loube` re, 1990 ). Another example is Mouton-Rothschild in Bordeaux. The elevation of Mouton-Rothschild to the first growth in 1973 earned it the same standing as the other four first growths in Bordeaux and greatly enhanced its wines’ status in the wine world.

2.2.3. Vintage as a signifier of social standing As shown in Table 2 , the vast majority of wines (99% among both sampled California and French premium wines) are vintage wines. 9 Since vintage is an important dimension of classifying wines in both industries, it is a crucial indicator of a wine’s identity and has become a norm in winemaking. A wine without a vintage-dating has a formidable barrier to claim a distinctive taste and to achieve a high status in the wine market. In the nascent American winery, using vintage to classify wines has changed winemakers’ strategy. For example, Julio Gallo, the co-founder of the largest winery (i.e., E. and J. Gallo) in the world, long opposed using vintage-dating in the California wine industry. However, after the vintage was used to classify American wines, he acknowledged that vintage-dating ‘‘became a marketing necessity. Wine writers and wine buffs want to be able to refer to one vintage as being better than another. The serious wine drinker looks forward to discerning the differences in wines from the same winery.’’ He changed his attitude, and since 1983 E. and J. Gallo started to release its vintage-dated wines ( Gallo and Gallo, 1994 :275–276).

2.3. Involving the political process and political struggles in classification making

Because a classification exerts social control of identities of social actors (or objects), presents a specific social order, and affects one’s social standing, it embodies an important political power. The racial classification clearly reflects the political power of the state or the dominant racial group (Darnell, 1996; Lee, 1993; Starr, 1992 ). In markets, dominant producers influence the industry media to stabilize the existing product categories to serve their interests ( Lounsbury and Rao, 2004 ). On the other hand, selection of a particular category by social actors is often a political action (Albert and Whetten, 1985 ). Because a classification often affects standing of social actors, they always strive to associate themselves with high-ranked or desirable categories in the classification system. Because classifications have such significant and profound consequences, classification schemes, standards, and definitions of categories are always negotiated between different interest groups. The final classification system is often the result of political struggles between them. On most occasions, the dominant social group would take advantage of its economic, political, and

9 Among the sampled French wines, all those wines without a vintage-dating are Champagnes that are usually a blend of different vintages (see Shanken, 2000:225).

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cultural power to control the classification system. It strives to manipulate the classification system to maintain a specific social order and to consolidate its social status (Bourdieu, 1984 ). For example, in 19th-century Boston, establishment of the classification scheme of high culture and popular culture involved contentious struggles between different social classes. Eventually, the upper class succeeded in maintaining this cultural distinction to secure its high social status ( DiMaggio, 1982a, 1982b ). In the American and French wine industries, it i s clear that classification making involves political actions and political struggles. A tellin g example is the classification of viticultural areas in the appellation system in the nascent American wine industry. Since an AVA appellation presents a kind of certificate to wines and helps to build a wine’s high reputation, it would be beneficial to winemakers if their loc al vine areas could be officially classified as a viticultural area. ‘‘Viticultural areas are established by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms with input by consumers, industry mem bers, grape growers, and other interested persons’’ ( ATF, 1986 :2). Establishing a new viticultural area requires that a petition be sent to ATF, usually from a group of wineries and growe rs. The petition must include historical and geographic evidence to distinguish the viticult ural area from the surrounding areas. ‘‘After a careful review of the material, ATF publishe s a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and invites public comment. In some instances, a public hear ing will be held to gather additional evidence or to resolve disputed evidence’’ ( ATF, 1986 :2). This process clearly requests social mobilization and political actions of local winemakers and grape growers. Delimiting boundaries of a viticultural area is subject to further political struggles between interest groups. The process of establishing and delimiting ‘‘ Napa Valley’’ as an AVA ap pellation provides a vivid example in this aspect. The official delim itation of the boundary of ‘‘Napa Valley’’—the first American Viticultural Area established i n California and the second one in the United States—was a landmark in the American wine i ndustry and triggered a heated debate from 1979 to 1981. Two proposals serving differe nt groups’ interests we re considered. One proposed to establish a relatively small AVA by drawing the boundaries based on a geographic watershed of Napa River, while the other one proposed to delimit a much broader AVA by including the eastern portion of Napa County. Winery owners, grape growers, consultants, distributors, scholars, and consumers all act ively participated in this debate, strongly motivated by personal and groups’ interests. The stake was high: after the continuous collective promotion of Napa Valley for a few decades, ‘‘Napa Valley wines have been the standard of excellence for U.S. wines’’ ( Lapsley, 1996 :207). Some winemakers and distributors explicitly showed their concerns : if their vineyards were excluded from the Napa Valley AVA, they would lose their market or would not have made investment ( Lapsley,

1996 :206–207).

Eventually, in the early 1980s ‘‘Napa Valley’’ appellation was officially delimited based on the proposal encompassing a wide range including the eastern portion of Napa County, consistent with the interests of grape growers in that area. Later on, however, this over-extended appellation led to an identity crisis of Napa Valley AVA and impaired the interests of those winemakers in the heart of the traditional grape-grown area of Napa Valley. Consequently, Howell Mountain (1984), Stags Leap District (1989), Spring Mountain District (1993), Oakville (1994), Rutherford (1994), Yountville (1999), and Diamond Mountain (2001) were further officially classified as independent, smaller appellations within the big viticultural area of Napa Valley. Since these new appellations may conflict with and overshadow the invaluable image of Napa Valley, in 1990 the California state passed a law: it provided that any wine affiliated with a sub-viticultural area

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appellation within the Napa Valley viticultural area must also bear the designation ‘‘Napa Valley’’ on the label ( Lee, 1992 :3). Clearly, the official delimitation of ‘‘Napa Valley’’ and further classifications within this viticultural area were driven by group interests, and the final classification scheme was the result of political struggles between different interest groups. Similarly, in the French wine industry, making classification involved the political process, and the classification system embodied the political power. The 1855 classification of Bordeaux wines, the origin and the symbol of a whole appellation system in France, was controlled by Bordeaux elite winemakers to protect their interests and to exclude other winemakers. Their exclusive right of claiming high-ranked appellations in the classification system secured their high status. In the French wine industry, the rigid appellation system with little change has largely ossified the hierarchical structure and blocked the upward mobility of new winemakers ( Langewiesche, 2000; Ulin, 1996 ).

3. A sociological framework on classifications

Drawing upon the literature and the discussions above, I summarize the important characteristics of classifications and present a sociological framework to understand classifications. I emphasize multi-dimensionality and complexity of classifications: classifica- tions are cognitive, social and political; classifications are institutional and institutionalized; classifications are inter-subjective and, at the same time, are objectified into the social reality. These different dimensions are intertwined with each other.

3.1. Classifications: cognitive, social, and political

Classifications provide the cognitive basis for social thinking, perceptions, and identification. Classifications constitute individual psyche and colonize people’s mind ( Douglas, 1986 ). They

are the invisible infrastructure and the cognitive basis of the social order ( Bowker and Star, 1999 ). In the wine market, consumers rely on the classification scheme to perceive thousands of products. Thanks to the sophisticated classification systems, consumers are not overwhelmed. Classification schemes, as the cognitive basis, usually come to our mind unconsciously and naturally. Nevertheless, each classification has a social origin (Douglas, 1986; Durkheim, 1912 [2001]; Durkheim and Mauss, 1903 [1963] ). The comparison of the classification systems between the American and French wine industries demonstrate that there is no natural way of classifying wines. Those classification schemes are socially constructed, reflecting different values, beliefs and traditions. In this sense, classifications are social products. One question raised by anthropologists is telling: ‘‘Is a zebra a white animal with black stripes? Or is it a black animal with white stripes?’’ (see Douglas and Hull, 1992 :1). There is no inherent truth and a classification is not predestined. Quite the opposite, once the classification is made in a particular way, it creates truth. As I have argued, classification making, includi ng making definitions, setting standards, and naming and labeling, embodies a political power and is often controlled by the high-status social group (cf. Bourdieu, 1984 ). Classifications exert strict social control of the identities of focal actors (or objects) and the perceptions of audi ences. Often appearing in some authoritative forms, classifications create, ossify, and naturalize social boundaries and the differentiation in standing among social actors (or objects). ‘‘T his is not the obvious power of coercion but the more elusive, passive power of discipl ine, increasingly self-inflicted’’ ( Espeland and Stevens,

1998 :331).

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3.2. Classifications: institutional and institutionalized

Institutions make classifications ( Douglas, 1986 ), and classifications are institutional:

institutional rules and standards are the bases of classifications; usually some institutional agencies design and implement classification schemes; institutional regulations and law often enforce the standards of classification and maintain boundaries between different groups. Classifications imply a standardization process in grouping social actors (or objects). Once classifications are in place, they confer identities on social actors (or objects) and create social boundaries among them in a standardized, extensive, and systematic way. In the American and French wine industries, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and Institut National des Appellations (INAO) are respectively the principal governmental agency to design the classification schemes, to enforce standards of categorization, and to control the classification system. They also stipulate the law and regulations on labeling in accordance with the official classification schemes. Even the size of the characters on the wine label is under regulation to ensure the legibility of the classified information (e.g., see ATF, 4.38). In these two industries, once the specific classification schemes for grape type, appellation, and vintage have been set, they start to categorize thousands of wines in a standardized and systematic way. As a result, wine products in the wine shops or grocery stores are displayed following a particular order. From the perspective of audiences, classifications are also highly institutionalized. Classifications are ‘‘collective representations’’ that are supra-individual or supra-personal ( Douglas, 1986; Durkheim, 1912 [2001]; Durkheim and Mauss, 1903 [1963]; Zerubavel, 1997 ). Classification schemes must be widely accepted by a large body of audience to be meaningful. In the wine market, consumers use the shared classification schemes—categories of appellation, grape type, and vintage—to perceive and evaluate thousands of products.

3.3. Classifications: inter-subjective, objectification and the social reality

Classifications are inter-subjective in the sense that they are well-shared cognitive schemes. They facilitate social communications among audiences and underlie collective perceptions of the external world. In this sense, ‘‘society cannot abandon these categories to the free will of particular individuals without abandoning itself’’ (Durkheim, 1912 [2001] :19). An important characteristic of classifications is taken-for-grantedness that is fundamental to the institutio- nalization process ( Jepperson, 1991 ). After classifications present a taken-for-granted social order in people’s mind, they are objectified as the social reality (Berger and Luckmann, 1966; Bourdieu, 1984 ). The objectification process of classification is potent and has important consequences for two reasons. First, since classifications are widely accepted, they objectify the social order and social facts for the whole public. Second, since the objectification process originates from the cognitive schema in our mind, this process is accomplished unconsciously. The ‘‘absence’’ and ‘‘invisibility’’ make institutional classifications even more powerful and effective ( Bowker and Star, 1999; Douglas, 1986 ). At the same time, they are materialized and naturalized. Classification schemes manifest in a variety of ‘‘signs’’ in the external world (e.g., different colors of traffic lights, the sign of ‘‘men’’ or ‘‘women’’ on the door of a restroom, catalogues in the library and the tag of call number on book shelves, and the sign of handicap parking in the parking lot). They appear not to be the lens and the instruments we use to observe and understand the world, but rather they create the real world; they appear not to be human and social products, but rather they become the social reality.

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In the wine world, from a neutral standpoint, it seems arbitrary to use grape variety to classify American wines and to use geographic origin to classify French wines. However, after these classification schemes are set, they shape our distinct perceptions of American wines and French wines. When we enter a wine aisle in a grocery store or a wine shop, we rarely raise the question why American wines and French wines are displayed differently. American wines and French wines seem to be born that way, and it is natural for us to treat them that way. Moreover, those signs of appellation, vintage and grape variety (for American wines) on the wine label ensure that we will identify a bottle of wine based on authorized categories; at the same time, they remind us that we should identify a wine that way.

4. Discussion

Through a comparative study, I find conspicuous differences in the official classification systems between the American and French wine i ndustries. American wines are classified primarily by grape variety, while French wines are classified primarily by appellation based on geographic origin. The structure of appellatio n classification in the American wine industry is horizontal, while it is vertical in the French win e industry. American wines are often categorized by a specific grape variety, while French wines s imply as red or white. The differences between these two classification systems reflect distinct beliefs and traditions in these two industries. These findings demonstrate that classificati ons are not natural, but are rather socially constructed. It should be noted that in addition to the offici al classification systems discussed in this paper, critics and industrial media also play an i mportant role in making classifications in the wine world. 10 For example, in Wine Spectator’s California Wine , James Laube made comprehensive classifications of wineries (from two stars to five stars), of wines (from three stars to five stars), of vintage (from ‘‘poor’’ to ‘‘outstanding’’), and vineyards (‘‘good,’’ ‘‘very good’’ or ‘‘outstanding’’). For the French wine industry, Coates (2000:574) classified vineyards from one star to three stars. Robert M. Parker, the most famous wine taster in the U.S., also made comprehensive classificat ions of producers in Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Rhoˆ ne (see Parker, 1990, 1997, 1998 ). In addition to these classi fications in wine books, wine magazines regularly classify wines. For example, Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast offer detailed scaling (50–100 points) of wines’ qua lity. They have also routinely announced the Top 100 wines released in each year. In general, criti cs and industrial media practice and enforce the official classification schemes. Their broa d classifying activities also complement the official classifications. 11 Drawing upon literature, this paper develops several general arguments on the implications and profound consequences of classifications: classifications confer identities on social actors (or objects) and channel perceptions of audiences; classifications create social boundaries, and signify standing of social actors (or objects); classification making involves a political process and political struggles between interest groups. These theoretical arguments are supported by the empirical evidence drawn from these two wine industries, while they have broader implications beyond the wine world.

10 Recently there have been some studies of the role of critics and industrial media in making classifications and regulating markets (e.g., Lounsbury and Rao, 2004; Zuckerman, 1999). 11 In some instances, they may challenge the official classifications (e.g., Robert Parker’s classification of Bordeaux wines).

W. Zhao / Poetics 33 (2005) 179–200

Because classifications are a part of a broad cultural system and cultural sociologists have paid much attention to classifications, I particularly discuss the close relations between the study of classification and several prominent lines of research in cultural sociology, including the study of boundaries (see Lamont, 2001; Lamont and Molna´ r, 2002 ), the study of identity construction (see Cerulo, 1997 ), and social cognition in culture study (see DiMaggio, 1997 ). As regards the study of boundaries, I argue that classifications may be the most important means to create soc ial boundaries. Lamont and her associate (2001, 2002) made the distinction between symbolic boundarie s and social boundaries: symbolic boundaries are ‘‘ conceptual distinctions made by social actors to categorize objects, people, practices, and even time and space,’’ while social boundaries ‘‘are objectified forms of social differences’’ ( Lamont and Molna´ r, 2002 :168; italics are added). ‘‘At the causal level, symbolic boundaries can be thought of as a necessary but insufficient condition for the existence of social boundaries’’ ( Lamont and Molna´ r, 2002 :169). Lamont (2001) contended that one challenge in the study of boundaries is to understand the connection bet ween symbolic boundaries and ‘‘objective’’ social boundaries and ‘‘how the former transmutes into the latter.’’ I argue that classifications play a crucial role in connecting symbolic bou ndaries with social boundaries. On the one hand, classification schemes reflect cognitive be liefs and conceptual di stinctions in people’s mind. On the other hand, they are formalized and objectified by institutional regulations, documents, and signs. In a sense, classifications transform invisible symbolic boundaries in our mind into tangible social boundaries in the world. Lamont (2001) contended that the other challenge is to integrate the study of boundaries in various realms and to d evelop a general theory. Since classifications play a crucial ro le in creating social boundaries in various fields, they may provide an important perspective and become a research focus in the study of boundaries. The study of classification is also promising in the research of social identity and identity construction. In a comprehensive review, Cerulo (1997) asserted that since the 1980s, the research of social identity has shifted its focus from the individual identity to the collective identity. The new trend of the study of social identity emphasizes identity politics and collective mobilization. In this paper, I argue that classifications confer identities on and exert social control of identification of social actors (or objects). Those identities based on institutional categories are group-orientated and collective in nature. Moreover, classifications involve political struggles and embody an important political power. Apparently, the study of the structure, the role and the consequences of classification systems will contribute to a better understanding of the identification patterns, identity construction, and identity politics. In a recent review, DiMaggio (1997) called on paying more attention to cognitive psychology and social cognition in cultural soc iology. He highlighted the supra-individual nature of culture and cognitive presuppositions of cultural sociology. Actually, he also briefly reviewed recent work on social classification. I concur with him on that classifications are the cognitive basis of collective perceptions. There fore, the study of classifications should take a prominent place in the study of cognitive founda tion of cultural sociology to understand how classifications affect social cognition and how social actors practice classification schemes in actions. When we further extend our view, we find classifications are ubiquitous and play an important role in a variety of fields including many other industries (e.g., the mutual fund industry, see Lounsbury and Rao, 2004 ; the automobile industry, see Rosa et al., 1999 ; the stock market, see Zuckerman, 2000; Zuckerman and Rao, 2004 ), education ( Meyer, 1977 ), labor markets ( Kerckhoff, 1995 ), occupations ( Conk, 1978 ), art ( DiMaggio, 1987 ), music ( Anand and Peterson,

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2000; Peterson, 1997 ), race ( Lee, 1993 ), nation building ( Anderson, 1991 ), the political arena ( Starr, 1992 ), the medical field (e.g., the International Classification of Diseases, see Chapter 2 in Bowker and Star, 1999 ), sports ( Purcell, 1996 ), and the daily life (Nippert-Eng, 1996; Zerubavel, 1991 ). In each field, classifications have exerted a great impact on the social structure and social outcome. Mary Douglas (1986) asserted: ‘‘We can look at our own classifications just as well as we can look at our own skin and blood under a microscope’’ (p. 109). As students of sociology, we cannot take classifications for granted. Just as Durkheim and Mauss (1903 [1963]) have done in Primitive Classification , social inquiry of ubiquitous and significant classifications will deepen our understanding of modern industrial society. 12 The whole discipline, including cultural sociology, will benefit a great deal from this academic endeavor.

Acknowledgement

I am very thankful to Xueguang Zhou for his generous support of the data collection.

Appendix A. Procedures of data collection from the premium wine market

Data on California and French wines were collected from the on-line source of Wine Spectator in 2002. The authoritative figure in the wine world, Robert M. Parker, Jr., appraised Wine Spectator as ‘‘the world’s best and most widely read wine magazine’’ ( Shanken, 2000 , back cover). The on-line source of Wine Spectator (www.winespectator.com ) is more comprehensive than other wine sources: it includes detailed information on more than 110,000 wines. One important characteristic of Wine Spectator is its broad coverage. A large proportion of Wine Spectator ’s ratings are California wines as representatives of American wines. At the same time, imported foreign wines, especially French wines, also have a significant presence in Wine Spectator. Similar to other wine magazines, Wine Spectator puts more emphasis on elite wineries producing premium wines. Wines in the data are clustered by winery. I first identified those California wines and French wines listed in Wine Spectator ’s Top 100: Best wines released in 1997 and in 1998. Similar to the patterns in other years, most of the top 100 wines listed for these two years were California wines and French wines. Among the best 100 wines released in the year 1997 and 1998, there were a total of 80 (44 in 1997 and 36 in 1998) California wines made by 62 California wineries and 63 French wines (28 in 1997 and 35 in 1998) made by 56 French wineries. 13 I then collected the information—including the grape variety, appellation, and vintage—on all the wines ever made by those California and French wineries. Finally, the sample consists of 4894 different California wines produced by those 62 California wineries and 3795 different French wines produced by those 56 French wineries. All these wines were released and tasted during the period from 1984 to 2002. Because the top 100 wines are prestigious wines and those wineries are elite producers in

12 Durkheim refused to generalize his theory of classification to modern industrial society because he believed that the classification system was context-dependent (see Schwartz, 1981:19; cf. Douglas, 1986:98).

13 Among all U.S. wines ranked as Wine Spectator’s Top 100 in these two years, only four wines coming from the State of Washington were listed in 1997, and only three wines from the State of Washington and one from the State of Oregon were listed in 1998. Because in the U.S. wine industry each state may have different wine law and regulations on labeling practice (cf. Baxevanis, 1992:55, 57), I focus on California wines to better control the institutional environment when examining the classified information on wine labels.

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the wine world, the sample is a good representative of premium wines in the high-status wine market. On the other hand, because I collect information on all wine products in each winery, there is a considerable variation in wine attributes such as the grape variety, appellation, vintage, quality, and price in the sample.

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Wei Zhao is Assistant Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is conducting a series of empirical studies on how institutional categories and classification systems affect identity construction and social recognition in the context of the California and French wine industries. He has also published a number of articles on social stratification, organizational changes, and economic relationships during China’s market transition. His research focuses on economic and organizational sociology, social stratification, and comparative and historical sociology.