Winemaking - a spiritual enterprise

A project by: Yochanan

pledged of £5,000 target

This project did not reach its target.

Completion Date: Mon 31 Jul 2017
Fruit of the Vines: A study of an organic vineyard's lifecycle and the DNA of a successful winemaker

About me

My name is Professor Yochanan Altman and I am a Professor of International Human Resource Management at Middlesex University. I am trained in Psychology and have a PhD in Anthropology.

In addition to being a recognised academic expert in comparative management, as well as a pioneer of the spirituality at work movement, I also have a personal fascination in the life cycle of vineyards and the spiritual enterprise involved in their running.

As a cultural nomad who has held academic appointments in four countries and visiting appointments in over twenty, this interest was ignited during the five years I spent in Bordeaux. It is this interest that led to me wanting to capture the day-to-day life cycle of a vineyard and how my crowdfunding project was born.

More on my project: ‘Wine making – a spiritual enterprise’

For me, winemaking is a spiritual enterprise given the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (‘VUCA’ in common acronym) that characterise the industry. It is deeply ingrained belief, resilience and grit that are the necessary traits of a good winemaker.

Through my crowdfunding campaign I am hoping to raise the necessary funds to complete a personal research project into the day-to-day running of a vineyard. This will document the annual cycle of wine production, looking at a host of relevant elements (e.g. agriculture, technology, climate, wine sciences, logistics, marketing and sales, people and finance), as well as internal matters (e.g. family relations and community affairs), and external issues (e.g. local and national politics, industry specifics, economic climate), all set within a holistic framework.

My intention is to distill the results into an insightful book for the general public.

The focus of my study

My study will centre around regular trips to Chateau Guibeau ( ), a family owned vineyard in the famed St Emilion region of Bordeaux in France.

A glamour that belies the precarious nature of vineyard life

There is a perceived glamour associated with St. Emilion wines given their royal seal dating back to the early 12th Century. This external gloss hides a craft requiring skill, know-how, hard work and the ability to cope with high levels of risk. At best, being a winemaker begets mediocre compensation and a bad year can sink a vineyard into bankruptcy.

Why Chateau Guibeau?

Chateau Guibeau provides all the ‘ingredients’ to make a truly fascinating study. With 45 hectares of vines, a staff of nine all sourced from the local community (rising to some 20 during the harvest season) and an in-house oenologist from the world-renowned laboratory of Michel Rolland, Chateau Guibeau handle all aspects of wine growing and production. This includes marketing and distribution.

Five years ago they went organic with the express desire to craft wines from what Mother Nature bestowed upon their terrain, with minimal artificial interference.

April's frost devastation

The volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of winemaking was in full evidence late this April (2017) when the temperature in the St. Emilion area dipped to -7 C. The ensuing frost resulted in the loss of more than half the yield and there is real concern about the quality of the remaining grapes.

It was the most severe frost in a quarter of a century, impacting the whole area and numerous people and businesses from the region who depend economically on the vineyards: the local workforce, support sectors and businesses and those who give wine tours, among others.

The length of time and intricate processes required for grapes to reach the table as a refined bottle of wine mean the effect of this frost will last for years to come.

Why I need your help funding the project

My intention is to spend time ‘on the ground’ to gather data for my study. During my visits, I will use typical ethnographic tools such as participant observation, the documentation of life histories, and analysis of primary and secondary data; as well as photo documentation.

So far I have managed to complete a one-year study of the wine production cycle. Two more annual cycles are planned. This will enable me to factor in the many variables that characterise winemaking, as one season can be very different from another (the frost in April being a prime example of this).

To complete the project, I would ideally like to raise £5,000 to fund ten trips to the vineyard throughout the changing seasons over the next two years. This will allow me to build a really comprehensive picture of what it takes to run a vineyard and fully understand the challenges faced by vintners. The bare minimum I would need to be able to complete top level research into the vineyard is £2,000, which would be used to fund four trips over the next two years.

A breakdown of how the funds raised will be spent is as follows:

• Travel (flights and car hire) - £2,200

• Accommodation during the trips - £1,500

• Transcription of interviews and field notes - £600

• Manuscript preparation, formatting assistance (including photos), proof reading - £500

• Miscel. - £200

If I raise more than £5,000?

In light of the frost devastation faced by Chateau Guibeau this year and the ramifications for both the workforce and local community, I would like to donate anything I raise above my £5,000 target to the Chateau and its local community.

The end product

The end result of my project is envisaged to be a book with various chapters (and photos! I take photos on each visit) that recount different aspects of life at Chateau Guibeau. It will use narrative and imagery to tell the story of vine cultivation through to the later winemaking phase and subsequent sales process. The chapters will document key events within the vineyard's annual life cycle, offering commentary on daily life at the vineyard, insight into the business strategy and an overview of the challenges faced. It will also build a picture of Chateau Guibeau's main protagonists and their life stories.

Donations and Currency

In the event this campaign is of interest to overseas donors, here is a rough idea of the Euro/Dollar exchange rate for the various donation levels listed on this page. Please note, PayPal will automatically convert any donations made overseas into Sterling when it collects these.

Donation levels in Euros/Dollars (N.B. These may fluctuate given exchange rate variations and should be used as a rough guide only):

  • £15 = 17€/$20
  • £25 = 29€/$32
  • £50 = 58€/$65
  • £75 = 85€/$100
  • £150 = 170€/$200
  • £250 = 285€/$325
  • £350 = 400€/$450
  • £500 = 570€/$650

How to find out more

To find out more, please message me through MDXCrowdfund.

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about my project. I hope it is of interest to you and even if you can't donate, you can still support me by spreading the word to your own networks, particularly individuals you think may have an interest in wine, viticulture or the St Emilion region of France!

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