Tag Archives: Terroir

The Story of Stilton Cheese: Place-based Production and the Protected Food Names System

By Matthew J Rippon

“Morrisons Mature Blue Stilton with PDO Logo.jpg” Blue Stilton from Morrisons supermarket which displays the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) logo (in red). Photo: Matthew J Rippon.

Blue Stilton from Morrisons supermarket which displays the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) logo (in red). Photo: Matthew J Rippon.

In the last year, eleven British foods have been awarded Protected Food Name (PFN) status. These are Stornoway Black Pudding (Isle of Lewis), Lakeland Herdwick (Cumbrian lamb), East Kent Goldings (hops), Fenland Celery (Cambridgeshire), Fal Oysters (Cornwall), Orkney Scottish Island Cheddar, Pembrokeshire Earlies (potatoes), Yorkshire Wensleydale, West Country Beef, West Country Lamb and Anglesey Sea Salt. These join a host of British PFNs which include Cornish Clotted Cream, Jersey Royal Potatoes, Melton Mowbray Pork Pies, Stilton Cheese and Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb. The UK currently has 62 PFNs.

PFNs are the EU arm of the international Geographical Indications (GI) structure. GIs are awarded to foods, drinks and agricultural products that originate from defined locations and are made in supposedly traditional ways. The quintessential GI is Champagne. Only alcoholic beverages that derive from the Champagne region of north-eastern France and are made in accordance with la méthode traditionnelle can legally be entitled ‘Champagne’. GIs are a form of Intellectual Property (IP) which possess two unique features. First, they allow firms to, in effect, ‘own’ common geographical terms. Second, unlike trademarks and patents, GIs are a collective form of IP as any number of producers of a particular food can utilise the same geographical name.

Stilton Cheese is one of the most interesting PFNs. This is partly because it is unlawful to manufacture ‘Stilton Cheese’ in the parish of Stilton. This is due to the historical geography codified in the Stilton PFN regulation which states that the eighteenth and nineteenth century’s inhabitants of the village retailed imported cheese but never consistently generated their own outputs. Moreover, Stilton, by law, must use pasteurised milk. The PFN thus functions as a safety mechanism which prohibits firms that make raw milk cheese from ever assuming the valuable ‘Stilton’ moniker.

“Bell Inn Stilton Village.jpg” The Bell Inn in Stilton parish argued by the village campaign to be the birthplace of Stilton Cheese. Photo: Matthew J Rippon.

The Bell Inn in Stilton parish argued by the village campaign to be the birthplace of Stilton Cheese. Photo: Matthew J Rippon.

Yet the place and methods of production are currently under attack from two independent antagonists that wish to destabilise the PFN regulation. The first – the Stilton village campaign – seeks to add the parish of Stilton to the protected zone. The second – from Stichelton Dairy – aims to create unpasteurised ‘Stilton’. The Stilton Cheesemakers’ Association (SCMA), which represents the ‘genuine’ Stilton manufacturers, is demanding that the status quo be maintained.

This ongoing conflict reveals how the PFN model cements the places and production methods that use economically and culturally esteemed geographical place-names while noting that motivated actors can nonetheless challenge both the regulated geography and formalised manufacturing styles.

About the author: Dr Matthew J Rippon obtained his PhD from the School of Geography at Queen Mary, University of London.

books_icon Rippon, M. J. (2014), What is the geography of Geographical Indications? Place, production methods and Protected Food Names. Area. doi: 10.1111/area.12085

60-world2 There’s ‘Stilton’ and then there’s ‘Stilton’ cheese Food and Geography Blog 11 January 2014

60-world2 Stilton seeks right to use its own name for its cheese Daily Telegraph 18 April 2014

60-world2 War of the cheeses Telegraph Magazine 01 December 2007 (pdf)

60-world2 Stilton Cheese Protected Designation of Origin (pdf)

60-world2 Stilton Cheesemakers’ Association

Knowing ‘Terroir’: a Sense of Place

by Fiona Ferbrache

'Terroir' near Castelnau de Montmiral, South West France

‘Terroir’ near Castelnau de Montmiral, South West France

‘Terroir’ is not a word to be found in my Dictionary of Human Geography, but geographer Tim Unwin (2012) locates the notion of terroir “at the heart of Geography”.  While this French word is frequently used to talk about food and wine production, it can also be linked to a sense of place and other key geographical ideas.

A recent article from The New York Times entitled ‘Vive le Terroir’ reappeared in the International Herald Tribune as ‘A sense of place that defies globalization’.  The narrative introduces a family who reside in the rural village of Castelnau de Montmiral, South West France.  It explains the family’s deep and emotional connection to the land (Jérôme is a farmer), to the extent that one “knows every inch, every stone, and which parcels are for what”. It describes terroir.

The article defines terroir as a concept “almost untranslatable, combining soil, weather, region and notions of authenticity, of genuineness and particularity – of roots, and home – in contrast to globalized products designed to taste the same everywhere”.  The elements of soil, weather and region are important here, but the quotation also captures notions that are keenly geographical: roots and home (dwelling perhaps), as well as authenticity and genuineness.  The ideas also capture a sense of knowing a place through practice and performance, as well as debates that examine local and global geographies of food production and consumption.

This latter theme ties in well with an article by Bathfield, Gasselin, López-Ridaura and Vandame (2013), exploring impacts of globalisation on small-scale coffee and honey producers in Guatemala.  Their paper examines, in particular, how smallholders responded to market shocks during a period of coffee crisis.  It is the research methodology that is of particular interest, in relation to the newspaper article above, for Bathfield et al. contribute to a growing field of studies at the level of the smallholder household (SHh) by exploring what unfolds within families.  The methods, for example, include family life histories; a technique that captures the individual emotional links and sense of identity between the smallholders and the land.

While it is widely understood that rural smallholders are increasingly connected to international markets (Bathfield et al. p.1), there are those families, such as the newspaper’s example, for whom the essence of particular local knowledge (local at the scale of an inch, or a stone), is something to value, cherish and pass on to future generations. Terroir is central to the continuation of their way of life. The idea of terroir then, is not all that distant from geographical concepts, and may be useful as a tool for capturing a notion more deeply in qualitative or ethnographic research at the micro-level.

60-world2  A sense of place that defies globalization. International Herald Tribune 02 September 2013. (also available online: Vive le Terroir The New York Times. 31 August 2013)

books_icon  Bathfield, B., Gasselin, P., López-Ridaura, S. & Vandame, R. 2013 A flexibility framework to understand the adaptation of small coffee and honey producers facing market shocks. The Geographical Journal DOI: 10.1111/geoj.12004

books_icon  Unwin, T. 2012. Terroir: at the heart of Geography, in Dougherty, P. (ed.) The Geography of Wine: Regions, Terroir and Techniques. Amsterdam: Springer pp.37-48