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  Editorial Issue 185, June 2019   
The Quality of WineThe Quality of Wine  Contents 
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The Quality of Wine


 In the course of its history, wine has undeniably been a topic for which have been written – like to say – reams about it. This custom is evidently still alive and in constant ferment, as there are so many who write about this subject with unchanged passion and interest. Not only have been written reams about this subject in the past, today we also generate huge quantities of digital data and documents about the very same subject. We debate a lot about the origin of wine, both historical and territorial, as well as discussing its production, viticultural, environmental, ethical, moral and even philosophical practices. Everything, however, is always inevitably aimed at highlighting, enhancing, not least, denigrating and criticizing the quality of wine. Territories, grapes, wines, producers, wine and viticultural practices, methods of consumption and anything else related to wine are compared one to each other, always and in any case to set the definition of a reference and criterion of quality, often with the claim of absolute value.


 

 Defining quality, in any case, is not easy. In fact, there are many factors defining this characteristic, not only technical and objective, but also sentimental and cultural ones. Often, tradition is a factor used for the definition of quality, a very dear concept – for example – to those who remain convinced that “things of the past were however the best”. There is more, of course: the definition of quality is also determined by factors that could be classified as schools of thought, often characterized by rigid and unquestionable criteria, sometimes lacking concrete foundations and not only of scientific type. Then, undeniably, there is also the taste of those who drink wine and who define and use entirely subjective qualitative criteria, even though they can meet the favor of others, and therefore referable to a model of relative objectivity. To these factors are inevitably added other ones as well.

 The concept of quality – in any case – is constantly changing: what today is considered, in more or less objective terms, a quality wine, would have not been considered the same in the past and, very likely, it could not be in the future. It is enough to consider the qualitative concept of some centuries ago, as well as that of two thousand years ago, to understand how our modern quality concept is so far from it, even drastically changed. Very likely, in fact, the wines that today we consider of quality, in the past would have met neither the taste nor the generally accepted qualitative concept. The same is certainly true in the opposite sense, that is, wines considered excellent a few centuries ago would not meet our modern taste. Wines of ancient Greece, as well as those appreciated by the ancient Romans – according to what we were told by the authors of those times – had a basically sweet taste, while the modern and more appreciated ones, are definitely and evidently dry.

 Quality and taste – a concept valid for both wine and any food or drink – have changed over time according to the preferences, traditions and culture of men. This principle, of course, in addition to be influenced by historical variations, also changes according to geographical factors, as preferences, traditions and cultures are intimately linked to their own places of social expression. On this regard, for example, we can consider some eating habits of the countries of the world: foods considered, not only good, but also of quality in a certain place, could be exactly considered the opposite way elsewhere. Quality, therefore, is a criterion continually undergoing adaptations and redefinitions, often determined by technological development, in the case of wine, by the progress made in the viticultural and wine making context. This last aspect – in fact – must not be underestimated because it allows the creation of products, so to speak, unknown in the past, presumably of better quality and, possibly, healthier and safer.

 This allows, not least, the definition of an agreed quality criterion based on technical factors and which inevitably end up conditioning and educating consumers. Moreover, this also influences the choices of producers, who, in addition to the irreplaceable and fundamental role of their personal vision of wine production, tend to conform to the accepted and agreed quality model, in order to ensure themselves better commercial opportunities. A quality criterion such as this one, although widely agreed and accepted by consumers and producers, does not meet – of course – the favor and approval of all. There are many criticisms moved towards a wine-making model, so to speak, of a technical nature, as – according to some – it is too far from the “nature” of the wine (in case it has one) and, in some respects, sophisticated and altered by too many influences of human and chemical origin.

 Given that wine is always and in any case the result of the manipulation of grapes and vines – a process starting from the vineyard and ending up in the bottle – inevitably, carried out by the work of man, every principle of quality is however questionable according to any other reference criterion. In other words, quality is always relative. In this regard, it is interesting to note that certain characteristics considered as good in some quality models are actually considered as more or less serious faults in others. The definition of a quality model still remains indispensable and essential in any aspects about man's practical and emotional expressions. However, defining the concept of “good” and “bad” is an exercise in some respects of utopian nature – sometimes done with a certain intellectual arrogance – simply because it is conditioned by countless factors and not always universally acceptable or agreed. The need, in any case, for a quality reference is a fundamental, essential and inevitable prerequisite for understanding and defining wine. And it is certainly something going far beyond subjectivity, guaranteeing an objective reference that has a decidedly higher and more reliable value than the arrogance of few ones.

Antonello Biancalana



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  Editorial Issue 185, June 2019   
The Quality of WineThe Quality of Wine  Contents 
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