In his recent article Chardonnay with Latitude, Boston Globe wine and food writer Stephen Meuse draws attention to the geography of wine. As with anything that varies spatially (such as coffee), geography can be used to learn about wine, just as wine can be used to learn about geography. The clever title of Meuse’s article reflects his decision to write about several wines whose common characteristic is particularly geographic: they are all made from grapes of the Chardonnay variety, but from the northernmost extremity of that grape’s geographic range.
Meuse describes the influence of both soil mineralogy and climate on grapes, and then provides tasting notes and retail information for a number of wines from close to 50 degrees North latitude. All of these wines are found in Europe, five degrees or more north of the northernmost wines in the Americas, though Meuse does not explain this difference, which has to do with the directions of currents in the north Atlantic Ocean. Northwestern Europe is warmed by the Gulf Stream, just as northeastern North America is cooled by the Labrador Current.
In his book The Geography of Wine, geographer Brian Sommers explains not only the geographic factors underlying terroir; he also examines the economic and social geographies of wine consumption and distribution. Wine, in fact, is of such interest to geographers that an entire specialty group of the Association of American Geographers is dedicated to wine scholarship.
Working as individuals or small groups in a class, identify common food or beverage items. What ingredients are required to produce each item? What factors determine where those ingredients can be produced? To what extent has human geography — such as patterns of trade or migration — influenced the location of these ingredients? What patterns of transportation are involved in producing the ingredients, processing the food or beverage, and delivering the product to consumers?