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Help me understand "well made wine"

by Redwinger » Fri Nov 23, 2007 11:58 am

I was just reading a note on a wine (not here so don't look for it) where the author came down very hard on a wine...syrupy, baby fat, globby, not food friendly, etc. He really painted an awful picture of this wine, but concluded that it was a well made wine. I'm having trouble reconciling all this. He'p me out.
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Re: Help me understand "well made wine"

by Howie Hart » Fri Nov 23, 2007 12:08 pm

Redwinger wrote:I was just reading a note on a wine (not here so don't look for it) where the author came down very hard on a wine...syrupy, baby fat, globby, not food friendly, etc. He really painted an awful picture of this wine, but concluded that it was a well made wine. I'm having trouble reconciling all this. He'p me out.
'Winger
I would assume he means the wine is without technical flaws, such as VA, oxidation, metalic or off tastes, brett, cloudy, etc. Such wines win awards in competitions.
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Re: Help me understand "well made wine"

by Robin Garr » Fri Nov 23, 2007 12:22 pm

Redwinger wrote:I was just reading a note on a wine (not here so don't look for it) where the author came down very hard on a wine...syrupy, baby fat, globby, not food friendly, etc. He really painted an awful picture of this wine, but concluded that it was a well made wine. I'm having trouble reconciling all this. He'p me out.
'Winger


What Howie said about the likelihood that it was competently made - without VA or brett or filth - but not in a style that the writer liked.

I might also guess that the author was feeling guilty about bashing the wine, so felt obliged to throw in a kind word at the end. Actually, I'll bet that a search of my TNs would catch me doing something similar. I can recall writing fairly negative TNs based on style, then feeling an obligation to mention that the wine, although not to my liking, was technically sound.
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Re: Help me understand "well made wine"

by Thomas » Fri Nov 23, 2007 12:44 pm

Robin Garr wrote:I can recall writing fairly negative TNs based on style, then feeling an obligation to mention that the wine, although not to my liking, was technically sound.


Yeah, this is the most misunderstood of all the wine writing traits--how can something one hates also be well made? Therein lies the difference between the subjective and the objective.

I might add that most critics don't do it that way--if they like it, the wine scores well; if they don't like it, the wine doesn't score well. Many of the critics probably don't know whether or not it is technically sound ;)
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Re: Help me understand "well made wine"

by Bernard Roth » Fri Nov 23, 2007 2:52 pm

Good wine starts in the vineyard. I would not be so kind in a TN if it appeared that the winemaker chose inferior grapes only to not make things worse at the winery. Frankly, that kind of remark ("well made wine") strikes me as naive.

Usually, when I read such ambiguous or backhanded comments, I asked the person who wrote them to elaborate.
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Re: Help me understand "well made wine"

by Mike Jacobs » Fri Nov 23, 2007 3:28 pm

Hi all-
Wine noob here.
This sounds like a thread I was reading regarding MollyDookers...
Can someone define fat/baby fat?
Thanks in advance,
Mike-
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Re: Help me understand "well made wine"

by Robin Garr » Fri Nov 23, 2007 3:52 pm

Bernard Roth wrote:Usually, when I read such ambiguous or backhanded comments, I asked the person who wrote them to elaborate.


Odd comment, Bernie. I can think of a number of words for it, but as others in this thread have pointed out, "well-made" is a fairly frank way to describe a competently produced wine that is not to one's personal taste. Properly using the term, of course, requires sufficient knowledge of wine making to recognize and identify flaws and describe them accurately, but I'm not sure how this relates to naivete.
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Re: Help me understand "well made wine"

by Thomas » Fri Nov 23, 2007 6:00 pm

Bernard Roth wrote:Frankly, that kind of remark ("well made wine") strikes me as naive.


Not sure I understand how someone with technical training can be viewed as naive.

Usually, when I read such ambiguous or backhanded comments, I asked the person who wrote them to elaborate.


I do agree that if you don't understand what a person means by "well made," it's a good idea to seek elaboration.
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Re: Help me understand "well made wine"

by Dale Williams » Fri Nov 23, 2007 6:46 pm

I might use the term if I think it's exactly what the winemaker intended. I think most Gajas, Perrot-Minots, modern Pape-Clements, etc are well-made wines. The winemaker achieved what he/she aimed for. Sometimes what they aim for isn't my ideal.
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Re: Help me understand "well made wine"

by Thomas » Fri Nov 23, 2007 7:15 pm

Dale Williams wrote:I might use the term if I think it's exactly what the winemaker intended. I think most Gajas, Perrot-Minots, modern Pape-Clements, etc are well-made wines. The winemaker achieved what he/she aimed for. Sometimes what they aim for isn't my ideal.


Dale,

What criterion or criteria do you use to determine what the winemaker intended?
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Re: Help me understand "well made wine"

by Dale Williams » Fri Nov 23, 2007 11:24 pm

Thomas wrote:
Dale Williams wrote:I might use the term if I think it's exactly what the winemaker intended//// Gajas, Perrot-Minots, modern Pape-Clements.


Dale,

What criterion or criteria do you use to determine what the winemaker intended?


I might think it's what the winemaker intended if it is consistent what with they have achieved (and seemed happy with) in the past. Angelo Gaja has a particular style, and a Sperss that is in that style is probably what he intended,even if it might not my favorite style. Dominique Laurent's wines (at least 1ers and up in 90s) were too oaky for me, but only an idiot would think it was accidental.
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Re: Help me understand "well made wine"

by Dan Donahue » Fri Nov 23, 2007 11:37 pm

Knowing the note, I'd say: well made = expensive enough that I bought it.
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Re: Help me understand "well made wine"

by Bernard Roth » Sat Nov 24, 2007 3:21 am

All in context. The cited language indicates that the author found no redeeming value in the wine. So to call it well-made begs the question.

When I taste a wine in a style that I do not care for, I describe the style and suggest that it may appeal to some tastes. I do not use the expression "well-made" if the wine is in some way of questionable provenance. Saying a disagreeable wine is well-made is like saying that Puccini is a competent operatic composer - such technical prowess matters not if one's ear cannot tolerate the extreme vibrato of a soprano voice.
Last edited by Bernard Roth on Sat Nov 24, 2007 4:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Help me understand "well made wine"

by Thomas » Sat Nov 24, 2007 11:10 am

Dale Williams wrote:
Thomas wrote:
Dale Williams wrote:I might use the term if I think it's exactly what the winemaker intended//// Gajas, Perrot-Minots, modern Pape-Clements.


Dale,

What criterion or criteria do you use to determine what the winemaker intended?


I might think it's what the winemaker intended if it is consistent what with they have achieved (and seemed happy with) in the past. Angelo Gaja has a particular style, and a Sperss that is in that style is probably what he intended,even if it might not my favorite style. Dominique Laurent's wines (at least 1ers and up in 90s) were too oaky for me, but only an idiot would think it was accidental.


I see, you use past experience, which works for those who have past experience with the product; but those who do not would have to find another way to evaluate the objective quality as opposed to the subjective appeal.
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Re: Help me understand "well made wine"

by Thomas » Sat Nov 24, 2007 11:22 am

Bernard Roth wrote:Saying a disagreeable wine is well-made is like saying that Puccini is a competent operatic composer - such technical prowess matters not if one's ear cannot tolerate the extreme vibrato of a soprano voice.


Sorry, but that analogy simply doesn't work, Bernard. The soprano is not Puccini's work, she is an interpretation of it. Her bad delivery does nothing to reduce his compositional prowess. Unless you are saying that you may not like the soprano voice--again, that is merely your subjectivity and does nothing to diminish the fact that a soprano voice is supposed to have "extreme vibrato," as you say.

In any event, you seem to be mixing likes with facts: if I don't like it, the fact that it is technically sound matters not (true, to you, but maybe not to a thousand people who might like it). But I agree, if a person evaluating a wine has nothing but subjective to go on, no technical training, then there is no discussion beyond "like it or not," and I, in fact, get annoyed when the taster starts analyzing the wine for those technical matters in which he or she may know of, but have no grounding.
Last edited by Thomas on Sat Nov 24, 2007 3:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Help me understand "well made wine"

by Anders Källberg » Sat Nov 24, 2007 12:32 pm

When I read "a well made wine" and, in fact, often when I use it to describe a wine myself too, I get a slightly negative feeling, as if expecting it to be followed by something like: "but lacking much interest". That association is even stronger if the word "technically" is added before the expression. Again, this might reflect my personal interests in wines with individuality and character. Of course also very good wines can be technically very well made, but I don't tend to use such an expression for those wines.

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Re: Help me understand "well made wine"

by Thomas » Sat Nov 24, 2007 12:56 pm

Anders Källberg wrote:When I read "a well made wine" and, in fact, often when I use it to describe a wine myself too, I get a slightly negative feeling, as if expecting it to be followed by something like: "but lacking much interest". That association is even stronger if the word "technically" is added before the expression. Again, this might reflect my personal interests in wines with individuality and character. Of course also very good wines can be technically very well made, but I don't tend to use such an expression for those wines.

Cheers,
Anders


Anders,

Understood. But that is a personal way of approaching both wine and how to refer to it. I think what Robin is saying is that while he may not like a wine, if he perceives its technical merits, as a wine writer, he feels an obligation to point that out to the readers, some of whom may not agree with his personal likes or dislikes.

To me, a lot of wine consumers take the product so personal that they can't imagine someone could like what they do not, or the other way around. That attitude says absolutely nothing about a wine meeting or not meeting established parameter for that variety and for the product in general.

I thought of my own analogy while walking my dog.

If I had to write about my impression of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday (the jazz singers) this is what I would say:

Ella had a decent voice range and she knew how to use it. She also displayed a near faultless sense of tonality and timing. Plus, on stage, she was an engaging performer. When I listen to her recordings, I am drawn to the orchestral arrangements rather than to Ella's singing--she almost comes off to my ears as part of the brass section.

Billie had a tight, even limited range, which she sometimes did not use wisely. Her sense of tonality and timing were not fully developed. On stage, she wasn't engaging so much as she was a presence. When I listen to her recordings, I am drawn directly to her singing, and often wish the orchestration would shut up--she doesn't seem part of the band but rather a force on its own trajectory, leading straight into my insides.

Musically, Ella Fitzgerald was technically superior, but I'd rather listen to Billie Holiday sing.
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Re: Help me understand "well made wine"

by Howie Hart » Sat Nov 24, 2007 1:45 pm

Thomas wrote:... If I had to write about my impression of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday (the jazz singers)....


Thomas - here are two links. Both are versions of Summertime. The first is by Ella, the second is Billie.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yKgAEkCKxY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5ddqniqxFM
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Re: Help me understand "well made wine"

by Jenise » Sat Nov 24, 2007 2:42 pm

Mike Jacobs wrote:Hi all-
Wine noob here.
This sounds like a thread I was reading regarding MollyDookers...
Can someone define fat/baby fat?
Thanks in advance,
Mike-


Mike, 'fat' and 'baby fat' aren't the same thing, though both could be used to describe the same wine. Baby fat is usually referring to a very young or just bottled wine that shows a surplus of characteristics particular to youth and that typically settle out/recede as the wine firms up with time in bottle. Conversely, a wine lacking in enough acidity to impress the writer as balanced could be called 'fat' at any time in its life.
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Re: Help me understand "well made wine"

by Max Hauser » Sat Nov 24, 2007 2:50 pm

The note Redwinger described could be a more extreme example than I've seen but (frankly) I'm more surprised at some surmises in this thread, since the phrase (a) isn't too rare in wine criticism and (b) is somewhat self-explanatory: you can make many things skilfully, as understood in the business, but with style or emphasis not to a critic's taste. Thomas's observations catch it well: separation of objective appraisal from personal preference. Maltin's film book long ago summarized the 1967 subway-violence movie The Incident as "Well made but unpleasant." I've seen the film, the description strikes me as apt, consistent with its quality and even significance -- redeeming values.

I find many things that fit such descriptions, buildings or books or Beaujolais, and for 15 or more years in blind wine-tasting notes I've used the phrase for such a distinction. From a recent note on a 2005 Burgundy: "Very well made ... not my style." I believe other tasters, writing separately, felt likewise. In this case at least, I see no guilt factors re bashing the wine (we didn't bash it, but rather described it); we could be naive, if there's basis for that conclusion (most of the tasters make a living from their wine palates; some were doing so before the makers of some of the wines were born).

Calling a wine is disagreeable says it's disagreeable to you -- again I repeat Thomas here.
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Re: Help me understand "well made wine"

by Thomas » Sat Nov 24, 2007 3:23 pm

Howie Hart wrote:
Thomas wrote:... If I had to write about my impression of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday (the jazz singers)....


Thomas - here are two links. Both are versions of Summertime. The first is by Ella, the second is Billie.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yKgAEkCKxY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5ddqniqxFM


Howie,

To my ears, those two illustrate exactly what I mean. Billie's singing expresses a longing; Ella's says, "don't I sound nice?" Billie's voice dances atop the music under it; Ella's blends with the orchestra.
Of course, I'm looking for all that to be the case... ;)
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Re: Help me understand "well made wine"

by Anders Källberg » Sat Nov 24, 2007 4:56 pm

Thomas wrote:
To my ears, those two illustrate exactly what I mean. Billie's singing expresses a longing; Ella's says, "don't I sound nice?" Billie's voice dances atop the music under it; Ella's blends with the orchestra.
Of course, I'm looking for all that to be the case... ;)


I quite agree with your point Thomas, but would just like to say that it gives me great pleasure to listen to both artists, in fact just like two very different wines might do (regardless if they are both well made or not...).

I'd also like to make the comment that Ella's voice is more like a musical instrument, thus it is hardly surprising if she blends very well with the orchestra. The example of Summertime, while it gave a nice comparison between the two artists, did perhaps not show Ella's virtues to the best, so I'd like to give another link, where she "freaks out" a bit more:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbL9vr4Q2LU&feature=related
Enjoy, Anders

PS. BTW, is there no one else but me that gets any negative vibrations from the phrase "well made wine"?
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Re: Help me understand "well made wine"

by Thomas » Sat Nov 24, 2007 6:09 pm

Anders Källberg wrote:
PS. BTW, is there no one else but me that gets any negative vibrations from the phrase "well made wine"?


Anders,

Are you not reading the whole thread?

Hint: Bernard Roth ;)
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Re: Help me understand "well made wine"

by Anders Källberg » Sat Nov 24, 2007 6:54 pm

Hmm, yes, I guess you are right. He calls the expression: "such ambiguous or backhanded comments", but mainly I read his comments as complaints of the use of the phrase as such, rather than what he thought it meant about the wine.
Cheers, A
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