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Spoofulated or Artisanal?

by Howie Hart » Sun Dec 02, 2007 11:46 am

A very interesting article I found on another website:
...Somebody has coined a word for this kind of wine: “Spoofulated.” Over-manipulation. Fiddling around with a wine to pump it up, score ratings and wow consumers at the expense of its natural terroir expression. The issue at hand is the extent to which winemakers, or any other chefs, are entrusted with preserving place and laying aside cheap thrills to protect nature...


The entire article can be found here:
Spoofulated or Artisanal?
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Re: Spoofulated or Artisanal?

by David M. Bueker » Sun Dec 02, 2007 12:56 pm

Howie Hart wrote:The issue at hand is the extent to which winemakers, or any other chefs, are entrusted with preserving place and laying aside cheap thrills to protect nature...


They aren't. They are entrusted to sell their products. If they choose to do that through making elegant, earth-centered wines then that's fine. If they choose to do it by making easily drinkable, fruity, oaky wines then that's fine too. Not that I am fond of high alcohol fruit bombs, but if people like them (and many, many people do) then there is no way or reason to stop them from being made.

I am more and more drawn to a musical analogy. Many people like pop music, even those who have been exposed to Mozart, Coltrane or the Beatles. Are record companies and musical acts entrusted to create timeless works of esthetic beauty? I don't think so.

The whole debate strikes me as a wine version of red state/blue state.
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Re: Spoofulated or Artisanal?

by ClarkDGigHbr » Sun Dec 02, 2007 5:11 pm

I am with David on this one. Although I have definite stylistic wine preferences, I believe we ultimately all suffer when we allow ideologues to drive issues like this.

Owners-winemakers-chief bottle washers-marketing directors of Grand Philosophical Wine Companies quickly end up facing the stark reality of the business world ... you have entered a very competitive arena, and success is not guaranteed. It is going to take a tremendous amount of evangelizing, creativity, hard work and luck to achieve fame and success.

Unfortunately, hard times can lead some of these people to take desparate measures. When they begin denigrating the competition and groups of wine consumers, making statements about moral responsibilities, and suggesting legislation of style, they have started their journeys down that dark path of ideology and demagoguery.

Just for the record, I am not classifying the article's author as one of these people. However, I was rather annoyed by the frequent, brazen "Buy my wine" messages throughout the article, which seemingly presented itself as something above crass marketing.

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Re: Spoofulated or Artisanal?

by Jamie Goode » Mon Dec 03, 2007 11:30 am

I think problems occur when statements on these topics are seen as more than just an opinion or preference.

One of the things that makes wine interesting is its diversity, and the way that this diversity has the ability to reflect a sense of place.

Even inexpensive wines can taste of where they come from, although 'terroir' (whatever that is...) is a concept that's probably more applicable to higher-end wines.

Once you've been won over by the diversity and interest of wine, then it's a little upsetting to see wines that taste tricked-up and manipulated, sort of as if you are seeing a somewhat plain but honestly attractive person wearing heavy make-up. I don't think there's any need for this. It seems dishonest at a fundamental level, and the association between place and wine is lost where wines are souped up to try to make them taste like more expensive wines from better sites.

But then there's another level to the whole debate: technology can be harnessed to make wines taste more like 'they should'; to make them truer to their terroir. Is that such a bad thing? Isn't the whole issue with technology the way it is used? The motivation behind it? Aren't great winemakers better able to produce wines which more clearly speak of their origin?
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Re: Spoofulated or Artisanal?

by ClarkDGigHbr » Tue Dec 04, 2007 1:33 am

I have several problems/issues with this last set of statements. Let me explain or simply pose some questions.

One of the things that makes wine interesting is its diversity, and the way that this diversity has the ability to reflect a sense of place.

The subtle message behind this statement seems to imply that wine is permitted to have one and only one sense of place, i.e. the place where the grapes were harvested. Does this mean the winemaker in Walla Walla is somehow being dishonest by trying to make a wine reflecting the style of Bordeaux? Of course not.

Once you've been won over by the diversity and interest of wine, then it's a little upsetting to see wines that taste tricked-up and manipulated ...

To some extent, I agree with this statement. It really annoys me a lot to see winemakers produce Chardonnay that smells and tastes like acorn ale. However, it has only been recently that people have really been complaining about this practice. Of course, some wine drinkers really like their Chardonnay this way. What will they do when this practice falls totally out of favor? I can just see them knocking on the doors of dark speakeasy wineries, then skulking away with a bottle of their horrid beverage tucked inside a trench coat. Of course, this is not the intended point of the above statement, but it is an example of how even seemingly innocent propositions can get warped to outrageous extremes. Does anyone remember Prohibition, for example?

It seems dishonest at a fundamental level, and the association between place and wine is lost where wines are souped up to try to make them taste like more expensive wines from better sites.

Hmmm, so where is it OK to draw the line? If a vintage is going to be really dreadful, because of weather conditions, how do we judge the creative winemaker, who is able to manipulate the resulting wine into something really good? I'll bet everyone would speak highly of him or her, but this statement implies this person is fundamentally dishonest. Sorry, but you really can't have it both ways.

But then there's another level to the whole debate: technology can be harnessed to make wines taste more like 'they should'; to make them truer to their terroir.

But wait, according to this statement, we can have it both ways, as long as the end product is terrroir true. So, it seems this winding philosophical path leads us to the conclusion that only wines that are true to their terroir ("whatever that is ...") are good, and by implication, the rest is not. Rubbish, I say. If I cannot afford to pay $50K for a piece of original art, I may get a great deal of satisfaction out of paying $500 for a good reproduction; technology and talent makes that doable. What is wrong with a winemaker trying to do the same thing? Nothing, as long as fraudulent labeling is not involved.

I say let's just live with the reality that winemakers have a significant number of technological tools with which to craft their product. There is no need to toss in philosophical value judgements about fundamental dishonesty. If you don't like the products, don't buy them ... period.

-- Clark
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Re: Spoofulated or Artisanal?

by Bill Hooper » Tue Dec 04, 2007 2:46 am

David M. Bueker wrote:I am more and more drawn to a musical analogy. Many people like pop music, even those who have been exposed to Mozart, Coltrane or the Beatles. Are record companies and musical acts entrusted to create timeless works of esthetic beauty? I don't think so.


No, the music buisness as a whole isn't required to create timeless works. Along with wine, if only a few do I'll be happy enough. But David, aren't the Beatles the very definition of pop music?
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Re: Spoofulated or Artisanal?

by Tim York » Tue Dec 04, 2007 5:16 am

I have sharply divergent, even schizophrenic, interests on the spoofulated v artisan issue.

I might invest for financial return in a company making commercial "spoofulated" wines but not buy any of their products. I doubt if any artisan producer of wine would be a good investment, even at the high end where prices for top Bordeaux châteaux have gone crazy.

Likewise I might have invested in the company who recorded the Beatles for the returns that they and their like brought, but only buy records from that company's superb classical catalogue plus a little jazz. I would be unlikely to invest in a classical only record company except as a sort of charity.
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Re: Spoofulated or Artisanal?

by Jamie Goode » Tue Dec 04, 2007 11:07 am

Clark, let me respond.

First, I didn't say wine is permitted to have only one sense of place. But I do think that's usually best for the wine. Of course, if you have a Bordeaux estate, you can make the wine however you like. That doesn't stop me expressing my opinion that I think you are daft if you try to make your wine taste like new world Cabernet - it's my view that there are few other places in the world that can make Cab/Merlot blends that have such freshness, drinkability, expression and ageing potential as Bordeaux, so why would you want to depart from what has been a very successful model and make wines that can be made in lots of regions...

Regarding technology: a skilled winemaker will use technology appropriately, and will know where to draw the line, and will make wines that just taste authentic and are at ease with themselves. I'm not suggesting that someone who makes a good wine in a bad vintage is fundamentally dishonest - that's a straw man of an argument that you've created.

Also, I'm not keen on 'if you don't like products don't buy them' - I think it's entirely appropriate for cosnumers and critics to share their opinions about particular wines and wine styles. We should be discussing this sort of topic, because it's an important one.
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Re: Spoofulated or Artisanal?

by David M. Bueker » Tue Dec 04, 2007 1:04 pm

Bill Hooper wrote:
David M. Bueker wrote:I am more and more drawn to a musical analogy. Many people like pop music, even those who have been exposed to Mozart, Coltrane or the Beatles. Are record companies and musical acts entrusted to create timeless works of esthetic beauty? I don't think so.


No, the music buisness as a whole isn't required to create timeless works. Along with wine, if only a few do I'll be happy enough. But David, aren't the Beatles the very definition of pop music?


Taking your response in two parts then I would say that not all winemakers are required to create "vins de terroir" (for lack of a better term). In fact for many I would not recommend it as they may not have the site, the skill or the financial means (either their own or the will of the corporate backer) to do so.

As for the Beatles - I agree that their early music was pop. I'm actually not a big fan of much prior to Rubber Soul when it became something else entirely. I'm a huge Beatles fan, and thus not at all objective, but I cannot describe their later efforts as pop music. It's something more that is indeed beyond genre and timeless, at least to me.
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Re: Spoofulated or Artisanal?

by Bill Spohn » Tue Dec 04, 2007 2:23 pm

Tim York wrote:I have sharply divergent, even schizophrenic, interests on the spoofulated v artisan issue.

I might invest for financial return in a company making commercial "spoofulated" wines but not buy any of their products. I doubt if any artisan producer of wine would be a good investment, even at the high end where prices for top Bordeaux châteaux have gone crazy.

Likewise I might have invested in the company who recorded the Beatles for the returns that they and their like brought, but only buy records from that company's superb classical catalogue plus a little jazz. I would be unlikely to invest in a classical only record company except as a sort of charity.


Tim, that sums it up for me as well.

I can admire and buy the product of an artist/winemaker that puts art before profit, while appreciating the practicality of a winemaker that makes something other than what he would make given unlimited license and money, in order to put his kids through school.

I regret the effect that some wine reviewers have had on the marketplace, as it encourages winemakers to meddle in the process (in the sense that the artisans say that the wine makes itself and they are just there to facilitate that process) in order to make a more salable product, but OTOH, how can you blame the reviewer for that? He is just stating an honest preference, and none of them would ever say that winemakers should all toe his or her particular line. I see RP get a lot of flak on this, as if by praising one sort of wine he becomes responsible when many wines are altered in order to sell better.
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Re: Spoofulated or Artisanal?

by JC (NC) » Tue Dec 04, 2007 4:25 pm

I did hear that a particular winemaker in Washington State, working for a large corporation, had to use more new oak with the product than the winemaker prefered because that was what the corporation felt the public was demanding. I think it is sad when the winemaker cannot follow his or her own instincts as to what produces the best product. But I guess that comes with the territory working for a large corporation. A winemaker who owns the winery (and/or vineyards) can at least try to market the type of wine he or she prefers.
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Re: Spoofulated or Artisanal?

by Bill Hooper » Tue Dec 04, 2007 9:46 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:As for the Beatles - I agree that their early music was pop. I'm actually not a big fan of much prior to Rubber Soul when it became something else entirely. I'm a huge Beatles fan, and thus not at all objective, but I cannot describe their later efforts as pop music. It's something more that is indeed beyond genre and timeless, at least to me.


Fair enough David. I too like the Beatles. I just think of pop music as "Popular Music". The Beatles were and will probably always be popular -more popular than Jesus :D .
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Re: Spoofulated or Artisanal?

by David M. Bueker » Tue Dec 04, 2007 9:48 pm

Bill Hooper wrote:
David M. Bueker wrote:As for the Beatles - I agree that their early music was pop. I'm actually not a big fan of much prior to Rubber Soul when it became something else entirely. I'm a huge Beatles fan, and thus not at all objective, but I cannot describe their later efforts as pop music. It's something more that is indeed beyond genre and timeless, at least to me.


Fair enough David. I too like the Beatles. I just think of pop music as "Popular Music". The Beatles were and will probably always be popular -more popular than Jesus :D .


Channeling John Lennon?

Perhaps I am corrupted, but "pop" music to me is mostly the disposable stuff (you know what I mean), popular or not.
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Re: Spoofulated or Artisanal?

by Bill Hooper » Wed Dec 05, 2007 12:32 am

David M. Bueker wrote:
Bill Hooper wrote:
David M. Bueker wrote:As for the Beatles - I agree that their early music was pop. I'm actually not a big fan of much prior to Rubber Soul when it became something else entirely. I'm a huge Beatles fan, and thus not at all objective, but I cannot describe their later efforts as pop music. It's something more that is indeed beyond genre and timeless, at least to me.


Fair enough David. I too like the Beatles. I just think of pop music as "Popular Music". The Beatles were and will probably always be popular -more popular than Jesus :D .


Channeling John Lennon?

Perhaps I am corrupted, but "pop" music to me is mostly the disposable stuff (you know what I mean), popular or not.


I do.
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Re: Spoofulated or Artisanal?

by Paul Winalski » Wed Dec 05, 2007 2:05 am

I think the term "spoofulated" is semantically biased.

Frankly, how a winemaker arrives at a great wine is something I, as a wine enjoyer, consider irrelevant, except from a purely academic view-from-the sidelines standpoint.

I'm a bottom-line consumer.

You produce the wine, using whatever sources, and whatever methods and additives, as you deem necessary.

I will in turn evaluate the resulting output, based on how it tastes versus how I think it ought to taste.

That being said, in my 20+ years of experience, it seems that the less manipulative wines have turned out to be the greatest.

But there's one indisputable thing we have to be thankful for.

Thanks to "spoofulated" techniques, truly bad wines are a thing of the distant past.

When was the last time you saw a ropy wine? I've only ever seen one bottle in 30+ years as a wine connoisseur. It's been over 20 years since I last saw a bottle of fizzy, acetic-spoiled red wine. And I haven't seen truly rot-infested wine in volume since the (in retrospect, ghastly and infamous) 1983 red Burgundy vintage.

The wine industry has at least got acceptable (one grade above mediocre) down pat.

It wasn't all that long ago when even the greatest estates couldn't avoid the occasional truly ghastly bad vintage. That's no longer the case, due to the techniques that are sometimes called "spoofulation".

If spinning cones means I don't have to endure 1963 or 1968 Bordeaux, or 1983 red Burgundies, ever again, I'm all in favor of them.

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Re: Spoofulated or Artisanal?

by Covert » Wed Dec 05, 2007 7:53 am

Jamie Goode wrote:Even inexpensive wines can taste of where they come from, although 'terroir' (whatever that is...) is a concept that's probably more applicable to higher-end wines.


I searched Google last night trying to find the chemical underpinnings of earthy flavors in wine. Deciding to let my current fine Bordeaux collection age to full maturity, I have been buying lots of Cru Bourgeois to fill in the years, concentrating on little known, very inexpensive bottles. Even if a Cru B is somewhat simple, if it has dominant earthy flavors (aromas), as opposed to forward fruit flavors, I can find it highly enjoyable to drink. Some of the opinions I read state these flavors come from the ground, like you are tasting earth. I doubt this is true, but I would like to find where they come from.

Also, I find it interesting that many 2000 Cru Bs are developing into the type jewel I describe. I remember thinking that the finer 2000s that I tasted when they came out were way to fruity. The fact that many of the 2000 Cru Bs are so earthy and wonderful bodes well for the many fine 2000 bottles I purchased just because I could not take the chance that such a heralded year might turn into wonderfully complex, and earthy, adults. I am not testing them. 2000 La Cardonne is an example of a wonderfully earthy 2000 Cru B, as is l'Argenteyere. You really have to scour the stores to find 2000 Cru Bs now.
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Re: Spoofulated or Artisanal?

by Robin Garr » Wed Dec 05, 2007 10:53 am

Jamie Goode wrote:I think problems occur when statements on these topics are seen as more than just an opinion or preference.


Hey, Jamie, nice to see you in WLDG! We've missed you, not to mention the Friday trolls. ;)
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Re: Spoofulated or Artisanal?

by Hoke » Wed Dec 05, 2007 1:30 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:
Bill Hooper wrote:
David M. Bueker wrote:As for the Beatles - I agree that their early music was pop. I'm actually not a big fan of much prior to Rubber Soul when it became something else entirely. I'm a huge Beatles fan, and thus not at all objective, but I cannot describe their later efforts as pop music. It's something more that is indeed beyond genre and timeless, at least to me.


Fair enough David. I too like the Beatles. I just think of pop music as "Popular Music". The Beatles were and will probably always be popular -more popular than Jesus :D .


Channeling John Lennon?

Perhaps I am corrupted, but "pop" music to me is mostly the disposable stuff (you know what I mean), popular or not.


You mean the old "Good Pop, Bad Pop" thing? :twisted:
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Re: Spoofulated or Artisanal?

by Thomas » Wed Dec 05, 2007 10:38 pm

Jamie Goode wrote: it's my view that there are few other places in the world that can make Cab/Merlot blends that have such freshness, drinkability, expression and ageing potential as Bordeaux, so why would you want to depart from what has been a very successful model and make wines that can be made in lots of regions...



Jamie,

Not that I agree or disagree with the above, but it wreaks of tons of opinion and ounces of fact, which of course weakens your argument.

Please define the following:

freshness, drinkability, expression, and aging potential plus, why they are specific to Bordeaux when it comes to Cab/Merlot, which isn't strictly the blend in Bordeaux, not to mention that Bordeaux has many sub areas within its region.

Methinks you mistake tradition with terroir.
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Re: Spoofulated or Artisanal?

by David M. Bueker » Wed Dec 05, 2007 10:52 pm

Thomas wrote:
Methinks you mistake tradition with terroir.


Nah. Don't try to find objective truths in taste. There aren't any.
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Re: Spoofulated or Artisanal?

by Max Hauser » Wed Dec 05, 2007 11:17 pm

A hard subject for most of us consumers, however interested, to view in perspective because we have our own wine history and tastes.

Jamie Goode wrote:... my opinion that I think you are daft if you try to make your wine taste like new world Cabernet
The hell of it is, in these former colonies anyway, leading Cabernets of the New World didn't taste like "New World" Cabernets either, until relatively recently! And --

Bill Spohn wrote:I regret the effect that some wine reviewers have had on the marketplace, as it encourages winemakers to meddle in the process ... but OTOH, how can you blame the reviewer for that? ... I see RP get a lot of flak on this ...

Implicitly Bill you hit another historical question I scarcely see mentioned -- Did RP reflect popular taste, or create it?

How many people came newly to wine, gravitated to wines with high authoritative-looking ratings, and formed their palates around those examples? That's tough to approach objectively, it demands superhuman experience. (Though there are surely opinions, and ideologies -- I saw one of those when I presented data on the Squires forum evidently outside Squires's own worldview, because he replied with name-calling.)
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Re: Spoofulated or Artisanal?

by Thomas » Wed Dec 05, 2007 11:38 pm

Max Hauser wrote:A hard subject for most of us consumers, however interested, to view in perspective because we have our own wine history and tastes.

Jamie Goode wrote:... my opinion that I think you are daft if you try to make your wine taste like new world Cabernet
The hell of it is, in these former colonies anyway, leading Cabernets of the New World didn't taste like "New World" Cabernets either, until relatively recently! And --

Bill Spohn wrote:I regret the effect that some wine reviewers have had on the marketplace, as it encourages winemakers to meddle in the process ... but OTOH, how can you blame the reviewer for that? ... I see RP get a lot of flak on this ...

Implicitly Bill you hit another historical question I scarcely see mentioned -- Did RP reflect popular taste, or create it?

How many people came newly to wine, gravitated to wines with high authoritative-looking ratings, and formed their palates around those examples? That's tough to approach objectively, it demands superhuman experience. (Though there are surely opinions, and ideologies -- I saw one of those when I presented data on the Squires forum evidently outside Squires's own worldview, because he replied with name-calling.)


Diversity is wonderful, but I don't believe that any particular branch of diversity reflects either truth or purity. Not for a minute do I think that either what I like or what the critics and their numbers-chasing winemakers push reflects truth in wine.

Truth in wine is in what seeks and one gets from the glass before him or her. The idea that there is a right way and a wrong way to produce wine is offensive. But I do believe that there is a problem when some gain inordinate power, influence direction, and all too often lead to reduced choices, which sets the stage for mediocrity.

I object to Jamie's reference to Bordeaux as the truth for Cab/Merlot as sure as I object to RP's gobs of fruit as a measure for greatness simply because neither can be empirically demonstrated as truth.

PS: Max, discussing wine--or possibly anything--with Squires is doomed to wind up in a most displeasing vortex.
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Re: Spoofulated or Artisanal?

by Max Hauser » Thu Dec 06, 2007 12:58 am

Thomas wrote: ...The idea that there is a right way and a wrong way to produce wine is offensive. But I do believe that there is a problem when some gain inordinate power, influence direction, and all too often lead to reduced choices, which sets the stage for mediocrity.

PS: Max, discussing wine--or possibly anything--with Squires is doomed to wind up in a most displeasing vortex.

In earlier days, before much or any talk of "New World" wine style in California, complaints arose in a different direction, criticizing some modern US "scientific" winemaking for ignoring longtime tradition and experience, with mediocrity, and far worse, as results. I saw various examples of this complaint; below is among the sharpest.

(I have less experience than some folks with the Squires forum. But my ideology detector jingles when factual, demonstrable data are as the Germans say ausgeschlossen or excluded from consideration, as though they couldn't conceivably be true. That suggests that the facts conflict with a world-view that someone prefers to them.)

--
... the University, with some reservations, continued to recommend AxR right up until 1988. It appears clear that over the next ten years or so, the majority of vineyards in Napa and Sonoma will have to be replanted. . . . [Ridge's own plantings remained on a traditional, phylloxera-resistant, Saint George rootstock.] We were not on the "cutting edge" as defined by the University. We deliberately looked to the techniques of pre-Prohibition California, techniques virtually identical to those used for centuries to make the finest European wines. We were not impressed with the simple, clean, fruity wines produced by "modern techniques." Why, we reasoned, would the academics know anything more about fine-grape-growing than they did about fine winemaking? --Paul Draper, "Ridge Report," January 1993.
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Re: Spoofulated or Artisanal?

by David M. Bueker » Thu Dec 06, 2007 8:51 am

Just a comment for folks re: the chicken or the egg phenomenon/discussion about Parker - my main wine source has made it abundantly clear to me on several occasions that Parker drives only a very small portion of hteir sales. It's the Spectator that brings in the masses. The annual Top 100 (especially the top 10) swamps any Parker influence. Yes there are many Parker buyers, but they are vastly outnumbered.

Want to rail against something - rail against the Spectator.
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