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Does ‘quality’ mean anything?


#21

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.


#22

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


#23

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.


#24

yes… red is just skin contact rosé


#25

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.


#26

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.


#27

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.


#28

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.


#29

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!


#30

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?


#31

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


#32

Don’t use the term for wine.

There we are - problem solved.


#33

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


#34

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.


#35

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


#36

Any art really.

image

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.


#37

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.


#38

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


#39

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.


#40

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.