• Karl Schnabel

Thoughts on quality in wine




In general



Quality determines the value of a product or a commodity.


But what is quality?

In most cases, various different parameters determine the quality and therefore the value of a product. For example, in the case of cars, these parameters could be the engine power, fuel consumption, necessity for repairs and their durability, driving comfort, body construction, accident safety, etc. Technical products have clearly noticeable and comparable features.




Quality in food



For food and beverages, the definition of quality is much more complex and unclear. There is a food law which sets certain standards leading to some degree of transparency. Ingredients must be listed, but not completely. There are regulations addressing which ingredients do not have to be listed if they fall below certain quantities.


Laboratory techniques would make it possible to detect and quantify substances that are present in very small quantities in food. This can include the smallest quantities not only in the microscopic but also in the nano range. This evidence would be of particular interest in connection with residue contamination. Knowledge of residues is an advantage for the consumer when assessing and choosing a product. These "ancillary" substances provide more detailed information on the nature and about the production method of a product as well.


One could object that if a substance doesn't exceed a certain amount, it's ultimately irrelevant. However, this overlooks the fact that several products with residues add up to a higher residue level together. The same applies to production methods. Many small amounts of contamination in the environment add up to greater environmental pollution in total.


In order to determine the quality of food, beverage and luxury food products and to be able to compare them, this information would be important. Compliance with certain minimum standards does not yet allow an objective distinction of quality.




Quality in wine



What about the definition of quality in wines? A "strict" wine law has been set up and, as a result, testing commissions have been established to determine whether a wine can be stated as a quality wine.


So does that mean that everything’s fine? Not at all!




Wine is a luxury food, resp. beverage and there are different regulations for wine than for food. No ingredients need to be listed for wine. Only the allergen "sulfur" in the form of sulfites must be mentioned due to an EU law. This regulation was implemented in such a way that there isn’t any extensive information available to the consumer. The only note on the bottle is "contains sulfites", which does not offer transparency to the consumer. This is because the wine in question may have had a minimal amount of sulfur added to it, e.g. 20 mg per liter or the maximum amount allowed – well over 100 mg per liter.

The testing of wine quality consists of two parts. First is a sensory part in which the wine is tasted by a commission of six people. Six subjective human palates decide on whether the wine to be tested is a quality wine. Besides the sensory check, the wine is also examined analytically. However, this only very superficially, such as for maximum amount of sulfur, residual sugar, alcohol content, volatile acidity, etc. No attention is paid to residues or to which chemical and technical processes the wine has gone through. These parameters would be important for an objective quality assessment.






How can one distinguish wine qualitatively as a consumer?



The wine industry has failed to provide an objective comparative quality assessment.

In general, quality should be based on three principles. Quality is three-dimensional.





Flavor


Wine is a luxury food. Wine has to taste good. The flavors of wine have to be agreeable to consumers. Taste is something subjective, and tastes are different. Even the ancient Romans said "De gustibus non disputandum est" (there is no dispute about taste). The wine must taste good to the relevant consumer and not to the state-approved taster! Taste is the first selection criterion and very important.





Digestibility


The consumer will not have the wine examined in a private laboratory to know what the wine has come into contact with. However, the wine connoisseur may pay attention to how good the wine feels. How enjoyable is the wine? How do you feel when you drink the wine? How do you feel the next day after drinking the wine?





Production method



How sustainable was the wine produced? Is the producer at least organic certified? Do you know the producer and the winery personally and how they work?

To be able to classify a wine qualitatively, one must at least look at these three parameters. Besides taste, digestibility should be important to everyone. It is sad that many people do not care about the way in which it is produced. The coming generations will this not forgive the current generation..........






Finally, a few remarks about the price of a product. In theory, the price is a reflection of quality. However, this is only correct to a limited extent. A high price does not necessarily guarantee high quality. High prices can also mean good PR work instead of good quality. A low price definitely excludes high quality. If you get a good quality product at a low price, you must be aware that someone in the production chain has paid for it. The bargain hunters must be aware of this.


There are many high-quality wines to choose from. Let's leave the rubbish aside, even if it has been highly decorated. In this sense, a sustainable life-affirming “Cheers!“.


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