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Contradictions of traditions and change in German winemaking: an exploratory study

Robert J. Harrington (Hospitality and Restaurant Management Program, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA)
Michael C. Ottenbacher (Heilbronn University, Heilbronn, Germany)

International Journal of Wine Business Research

ISSN: 1751-1062

Article publication date: 22 August 2008




This exploratory study aims to investigate the national adoption of international wine industry trends in Germany. Specifically, the paper consider this adoption as perceived by luxury German wine producers in three wine regions. This study addresses two main questions: what impact do regional German traditions have on techniques used by small wine producers in the super‐premium + segment? Are these traditions balanced with the adoption of New World techniques and trends in viticulture and viniculture?


Due to the complex nature of the research questions and to provide rich, meaningful descriptions, this study adopted a qualitative method. The researchers did semi‐structured interviews with five highly respected German winemakers in the Rheingau, Württemberg and Baden regions.


This study shows that German wine producers are heavily influenced by Old World philosophy and traditions as well as New World concepts and technology. Successful wine producers appear to create a balance between the gastronomic identity of the region with advantages of new technologies, business models and trends. Research limitations/implications – The study has been conducted in only three wine regions in Germany. In addition, this study employed the case study approach. Future research could use large sample proposition testing to investigate if the findings from this study can be statistically confirmed and are applicable to other countries.

Practical implications

German wine producers can learn much from New World business models. In particular, revised organizational forms that allow wine producers increased access to travel and promotion of products can assist in increasing demand for quality products as well as on‐going learning through interaction with others in the industry.


German wine is an important subject for academic study, however, it is under‐researched. This exploratory study provides several implications for small to medium‐sized wine producers in Germany.



Harrington, R.J. and Ottenbacher, M.C. (2008), "Contradictions of traditions and change in German winemaking: an exploratory study", International Journal of Wine Business Research, Vol. 20 No. 3, pp. 276-293.



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Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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