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Does ‘quality’ mean anything?


That’s an interesting point, @SteveSlatcher!

I am by no means an expert on natural wines, and not even 100% sure what is ‘natural’ about the least natural activity (i.e. vine cultivation), but in any case - of the several ones I tried - my sense was that the idea was to subvert the notion of ‘faulty’; so that the winemaker celebrated what we call ‘faulty’ notes - sourness, haziness, Bretty notes and so on.

Perhaps I’m looking at it a bit too cynically, though.


I think there is some truth in that, and in many cases I applaud the suversion, but not always. Ultimately, if I like it I will drink it.

Also agree that “natural” is a silly term, but that is true of many other wine terms too (Organic? White?), and in broad terms the meaning is understood


I agree that in some cases this is definitely the truth; but ‘natural’ seems an obfuscation; an attempt to sound noble and to stand out as doing something different. I don’t think the term helps at all in understanding what this wine is all about. Worse, it sounds like a fad - which puts off people like myself.


yes… red is just skin contact rosé


In many cases it IS a fad, and that puts me off too.

In as much as image is important at all, I prefer producers who downplay the ideology, or who emphasise traditional aspects of natural wine over the trendy and hip. For example, a producer whose family has been making wine for generations, but first heard about the possibility of yeast inoculation less than 10 years ago.


Quality is very subjective, as in one person’s rubbish is another’s treasure. As for the wine I may well “think” this is a quality wine if all the elements blend harmoniously together, but that isn’t to say that everyone will think the same way about said bottle. In the same way although I may/will enjoy most bottles that I drink I wouldn’t necessarily say they are all “quality” wines yet they deliver enjoyment. YMMV of course.


Lots of interesting stuff here but I do think that a distinction between preference and quality, at least in a limited sense, can and should be made. I know that many will baulk on purely egalitarian terms with anything that goes against personal preference being king but I did mention at the start that any view of quality needs to be at least in part based on an understanding of the style of wine.

I’m not arguing for a purely objective view of quality (and Steve’s point about cultural norms not withstanding) but for an engaged consumer there is something that is more than just mere herd instinct. However I think it’s interesting rather than important.


Hard to know what to add to so many good points in this thread. One thing that strikes me, though, is that if I buy “high quality” goods, I do expect that care and attention is taken over details, to ensure that the product is what it is intended to be. Similar to @JamesF’s point that

That all sounds a bit dry and “ISO Quality System”-ish, but even for something subjective like wine, I appreciate when effort is taken, from the vineyard all the way through winemaking and bottling. That doesn’t mean it has to be done by hand or even in small quantities - the point was made in another thread that large bottling plants are actually much less likely to introduce faults - but high quality implies that people really care about the product and have therefore used a high level of skill and technique to ensure that it matches their, and their customers’, expectations.


When using the word ‘quality’ in wine circles, you need a sense of humour. The best example is Germany, notorious for lacking humour.

In Germany, 95% of wine is classified as Qualitatswein. That means a Lidl bottle costing under four pounds passes the test for quality. So there you have it!


I confess to sometimes having a kind of inverse snobbery approach here. Some wines (Musar is a great example) can thrill me, but I would hesitate to say it’s a wine of high quality, because I know there are faults that would put off many experienced drinkers.

To be honest, it’s a word I rarely use. Mind you, sometimes I find myself thinking that a wine is “well made” (exhibits few/no flaws and shows good typicity), but doesn’t quite float my boat. Maybe that’s the same?


A circular argument surely, and emperor having no clothing too…(for avoidance of doubt I am agreeing with what you say!).


Don’t use the term for wine.

There we are - problem solved.


That’s relatively easy to do, but it’s a lot easier to get sucked into using terms like “good”, “excellent” and “poor”, which kind of imply the existence of quality. I try always to use the language of personal preference, but I know I slip up on occasions


I’m sure that’s right Steve, and I confess to a wee touch of provocation with my suggestion. I think I would be more comfortable using the terms in a particular context - notably as a choice to match food.

There definitely exist wines which to my taste at least, are without flaw and are well-made examples of their type, yet which I wouldn’t think the most appropriate choice to match a given dish.


it’s trying to get around subjective terms and use objective measurements…but with wine, like fine art, its nearly impossible.


Any art really.


It’s hard to argue that this label is other than a typographical car-crash. Yet whose heart would not beat a little faster if offered a glass?

My youngest daughter lectures on art at several universities - I’ll ask her views on this discussion when I see her at the weekend. Though I’m pretty sure she’ll tell me it’s either a meaningless question or unresolvable as framed. Actually, maybe that latter one may be my answer anyway.


This is something that frequently angers me in discussions about anything that is inevitably subjective; this is the best ski, car, band, restaurant, etc. in the world, along with the converse; worst etc. How can anyone make such ridiculous statements and yet it is done all the time. When, of course, they should be saying, this is my favourite / worst etc.


A question I have thought about for some days, hence delay in replying.

For me, it’s not about whether I like the wine or not.

Some wines I dislike I class as quality, others I enjoy I wouldn’t

If a wine has more factors on the left than the right of the following list I tend to think of it as quality,and vice versa.

on slope - Vineyard - on flat
old vines - Vineyard - young vines
estate/chateau - Vineyard - bought in grapes
owned/leased/managed by winery - Vineyard - bought in grapes
by hand - Harvest - by machine
grapes sorted - harvest - not sorted
spontaneous - fermentation - cultured yeast
barrel - fermentation - tank
no additions - fermentation - enzymes etc
open tank/lagare/kuipe - fermentation - rototank
barrel - aging - stave/chips/tannin powder
bottle - aging - none
at winery - bottling - bulk shipped
embossed - bottling - plain
DIAM/screwcap/flawless cork- bottling - plastic bung/agglomorate/twin top/cracked cork


Probably agree with many of your criteria barring embossed bottle. By this I assume you mean like the classic CNdP bottle, but if I’m wrong I apologise. I think very few, if any, bordeaux use embossed bottles. I don’t think I’d view that as a quality indicator.


Although I would quibble at some of these (embossed, insistence on barrel aging, probably the yeast…), I entirely agree with your approach. And with your introduction on the 2 *2 matrix of like/dislike; quality/commercial.