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Does ‘quality’ mean anything?


[quote=“MikeFranklin, post:39, topic:5101”]
I think very few, if any, bordeaux use embossed bottles. I don’t think I’d view that as a quality indicator[/quote]

It’s just one indicator, IMO; absence of an embossed bottle doesn’t equate to absence of quality.

An embossed bottle is not as cheap as a standard bottle. Kanonkop estate have a bott;e embossed with their logo, i.e. exclusive to them. I opened a Warwick Estate Cab Franc on Friday which not only had a heavy bottle but that bottle was embossed with the appellation - Stellenbosch.

Few Stellenbosch wines use such bottles, and absence of it doesn’t on its own indicate lack of quality, but I’m not aware of any wines that aren’t quality use them.


I think Peterm was having a bit of fun! I enjoyed reading it, anyway. Perhaps I could add a few more to his list.

Deep punt ---- shallow punt----- no punt at all.
Plain black and white label----- plain label with fancy lettering------ fancy labels with lurid colouring.
No back label……… back label.

Please take in jest. It’s only a bit of fun!


My wife taught me the ‘deep punt’ trick and we still enjoy jokingly oohing and aahing when we come across a particularly chunky one :grinning:


Interesting that there doesn’t seem to be an agreed reason for the punt. Lots of theories (some more believable than others) but no confirmed reason for its existence.


Capsule - no capsule


I had to google punt. I shall refrain from calling it the dimple in future.


Indeed. If it’s got a dimple, it is Haig :grinning:


Thinking of this, I started to think of cognitive science - my first degree had a module or two, and I was interested in connectionism and neural nets. Anyway, neural nets learn by exposing them to lots of exemplars of something. Then often you test them, then adjust the ‘network’ on what you know in another way is ‘right’. Then you go back to training - so there is stimuli coming in, and other sorts of information testing the ‘learning’.

These sort of ideas are surprisingly useful when you’re dealing with a growing child. You can see them hungrily taking in the world, and quite big changes suddenly occuring. You see the hunger for knowledge and the quick uptake of information. And the extent of needing to repeat things, to give different examples. But it’s amazing how quick it comes. And how much humans are programmed to explore!

Back to wine - taking from this, our ideas of quality are something like a ‘family resemblance’ gradually aquired through drinking lots of wine. We need lots of exemplars, and need to be open to all sorts of wine for ourselves to be sophisticated. This does not mean we have to be snobbish. Our ideas of quality can be determined by this exploratory nature, by drinking bad as well as good wine. By refining our palate by reminding ourselves both what good wine tastes like, but also reminding ourselves of how far we have come.

A colleague of mine, who was a really interesting guy, a Prof in Milan who came from an old Venitian family used to talk of different sorts of wine you might drink:

  • generally, everyday wine that you had with your meals. Unpretentious, reasonably priced.
  • every week you might have something special.
  • every month, you might have something very special indeed - and I’m thinking he’s thinking a Brunello or Barolo or something.
  • on very special occasions something particularly good. ‘To remind you of the taste of something really good’. he said.

I really like this approach. Actually, I would say that as well as drinking good stuff, it’s important to see why it’s good by also drinking cheap stuff occasionally, even bad stuff.

Another example- film making. Sometimes, watching a truly bad film. Some sub Schwarzenegger Sword and Sorcery epic, can actually tell you more about genre expectations, storytelling and filmic values in its failure, than just watching really good films. You see the bad plot, the terrible Deus Ex Machina ending, the eye-watering special effects. It’s not just watching 2001 that will show you, say the excellence in Science Fiction. It’s also watching the truly appalling Battlefield Earth (and do watch it - it’s hilarious).

OK - this sort of went from a post to a novellettte. Apologies!


I shall add another example - Hi Fi. There’s a lot of guff talked about in Hi Fi and you can read the nerdiest magazines and see a lot of stuff that would make any electrical engineer or physicicst roll around the floor laughing.


There is something. Take a loved CD - and get to listen to a truly good CD/Pre-Power and Loudspeaker combination. Your ears will suddenly realise what music is. I’ve been very lucky in that one member of my family was an obsessive audiophile, so I was able to get an idea, like my above example, of what good hifi sounds like.

Now for years I’ve been listening to things through my computer and very decent speakers, but hadn’t bothered about a decent amplifier. I happened to find some possible amplifiers to test and one was perfectly good. But then I tried this pre-power combination from a very good Scottish manufacturer, 20 years old. They were a revelation. Suddenly, I was thinking about ‘staging’, ‘musicality’ and other hifi terms I’d dismissed as gobbledeygook. And what’s more it was like a veil was lifted - suddenly, I heard Joni Mitchell, not on album, but more in the studio, recording the album.

So again, quality is so nebulous, and you can pick it apart, but there is something, something very much there, a family resemblance made up of lots of different factors. But it’s there, and especially when you compare bad to good.

There is also though the law of diminishing returns. You can get a pretty magnificent hifi set up if you spend about £1000 or so each on your source, pre-amp, power amp and speakers. Especially if you buy older stuff. However, you can spend 10, 20 or 30 times as much easily. This will not give you a factor of that more enjoyment.

But there is a sweet spot where the music you hear is a revelation. It’s finding that sweet spot. I imagine this is also true of wine.


I like this approach of different sorts of wines at different intervals. I also totally agree with the idea you need to drink wines of different levels regularly to appreciate it - a concept that applies to hi-fi’s, movies and indeed life itself!


In a sense I agree with those two posts, but (there had to be a ‘but’) usually we don’t enjoy wine or music in a vacuum - a lot is dependent on context. Personally I am not at all sure I would want to drink expensive wines every day, even if I could afford them. Simple wines do not just provide a foil to the posh ones. I think in cases where they are apropriate they can give equal pleasure - sometimes more.

Edit: In fact, sometimes, even side-by-side on the same occasion, I might prefer a simpler / cheaper wine. I am not poo-pooing all wine connoisseurship - just some of it :slight_smile:


@SteveSlatcher I totally agree. I was actually going to write another post musing on the ‘social’ side of wine, including suggestability and also the context in which it is drunk. I do think they have a great influence - hence the great wine scandal of that 1976 tasting. But I feel there is ‘something’ about wine that has quality - a family resemblance, hard to pin down sometimes.

I think there’s also the immediate context - there was something quite magnificent about the vino verde I had in a cheap place in Porto once with sausages. Or the house wine in a pasta place in Bologna. Friends told me about cycling in Frascati and having this amazing, fresh wine.

I’m not by any account suggesting snobbishness. Actually, I think the law of diminishing returns (a la Hifi) is there very strongly in wine. I don’t think I’ll be drinking premier cru Burgundy any time soon… However, I think there’s a truthfulness in some rough and ready wines that’s different from the factory-made taste of shudder Blossom Hill.

…which reminds me - Danny Dyer’s Run for your Wife is meant to be the motherlode of awfulness. I must find it…


Yes, cheap industrial plonk is very different from rough characterful wine - almost two entirely different drinks.

Also I agree that quality can be recognised in a wine, but my feeling is that comes merely by learning what others have taught us about quality. It is not a property of the wine itself, and only loosely correlated with pleasure.


We have this approach, but like @SteveSlatcher has commented, the occasion often adds more than just the wine itself; be this in the context of an amazing meal or time with friends and family.

We have often blind tasted people to show that what you spend on wine doesn’t always mater - I’ve B&st$rdishly blind tasted one friend the same wine on several occasions…sometimes its been the wine of the night, sometimes its been the least favourite - having been a more £££ means I will like it more person, I’ve finally knocked that out of him !

As for Hifi - I listened to a bands album played through a studio set-up…although I’d listened to the album dozens of times, I heard new parts of the music. I asked were those part of a remastering…they were original. It was a revelation


@JamesF I think there are definite social factors. The ambience, the persuasion. There is a definite bit of ‘Emperors New Clothes’. But there is a definite something there too. But it seems to me a bit related to price, but not as much as one might think. That famous 1976 tasting with the big shock took well-chosen Pinots from California and put them up against very expensive French wine. We might take from this that the Californian wines were amazing, but held back by simply where they came from. There was still some idea of quality there, and it was best found through blind tasting.

Well, maybe that’s part of it. Longevity is something else. I really don’t know much at all about this, but it seems like some wines can age beautifully and some just fall apart fast after a certain window.

At the end of the day it depends on the metrics.

Re the Hifi analogy - The same is true here - you have your esoteric valve setups with blinking lites and valves and little needles and all that, which looks as if it should sound incredibe… then you have stuff from Linn which is basically grey boring boxes. But the sound. Ah, the sound!


I forgot - the other determinant of price is of course economics and the possibility of the wine working as an alternative currency, which some high-end wines do. So there, taste goes out of the window and the value is where it is, if it is 1er Cru, what others will pay for it. What you’re paying is also the expectation of what you can trade it for, and what others are willing to pay for it. That becomes more important than simple taste and vinification and markup (as well as the shop judging what people will pay for it, of course).

The good news, I suppose, is that there are always then places which are unloved, and under valued. The endless search. (My money’s on Slovenia).


I usually find there is value (for my own palate) in most regions, but quite large variations in value within each one.

The “unloved” regions are not always cheap as there are no economies of scale, but I often go for them anyway out of interest. And remember they are loved somewhere. Somebody must be buying them, even if it is just locals. Sometimes they have good export markets elsewhere - it’s just that UK importers haven’t latched onto them.