Having Customers Share The Perception Of Quality Differences – One Century Of Debates About Quality Assessments On The French Wine Market

Geneviève Teil
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The wine market is a pretty paradoxical research object for the economical and marketing studies. In
France alone, every year, hundreds of thousands of new brand differentiated products are marketed.
How can so many brands survive to any rationalization process? One could think this situation to be
tied to a kind of French paradox, but the number of wine brands is also increasing in all wine
producing countries whether old, like Spain or new as US. Furthermore whereas most of the
market theories explain the existence of markets thanks to the happy meeting of a demand with a
corresponding supply, how could we explain the growth of the so called quality wine market, where it
is so difficult to find two drinkers, even to expert drinkers, agreeing about the quality of a wine,
ruining therefore the possibility of existence of any demand. The wine market is an interesting field
case that helps us revise some of our most widely shared hypothesis on the empirical functioning of
the markets. Which are the market procedures sustaining the happy encounter between a drinker and
a wine? Is it the wine quality? Is it its a good product signalisation? Are there social distinctive
processes? Is it a general opacity of the market? Is it the good adjustment to the consumers taste? In
order to disentangle this complicated question and explain how consumer-product agreements are
managed in order to perform sales and, at a larger scale, a market, this communication will draw
back the evolution of the wine market in France during the last century.
During this period, faced with repeated crisis, the wine market actors did not stand without reaction.
Next to the limitation of the production, the wine quality emerged as a major stake during all the 20th
century. In order to help its recognition, it became first labelled with origin denomination labels. But
soon, new difficulties led to reconsider the quality labels efficiency. During the period considered,
each new crisis brought in the same way critics of the old measures and new solutions. So, difficulties
after difficulties, ever larger collectives proposed and set up ever more adapted procedures for the
marketing of the wines. So the 20th century has seen the coming out of a series of procedures aimed at
facilitating the quality recognition of the wines. But step by step, the authors acknowledged as able to
define quality were changing, such as quality itself, and new market organisations appeared.
Nevertheless, far from sweeping away the old procedures, the new solutions cohabited with them
making the wine market appear today as a complex multilayered sandwich of market procedures that
fostered the development of a market of hundred of thousands of wine