Christopher Pratt (cpratt) wrote,
Christopher Pratt

Tasting in terms of musical composition, or: Amplitude

muckefuck links to an article on mustard and ketchup in his blog today. It's a fascinating read.

When jcoldrey and I were tasting the component wines that will go into the 2004 Clonakilla shiraz viognier, Tim Kirk, the winemaker, talked about those base wines in terms of a musical composition. The first barrel was all ethereal perfume; the third was huge, chocolate-y, heavy. When he puts them all together, you end up with a wine that is absolutely stunning: a seamless range of sensory experiences ranging from the beautiful to the intensely physical.

Apparently 'sensory experts' use the word 'amplitude' to describe exactly this sort of experience:

After breaking the ketchup down into its component parts, the testers assessed the critical dimension of "amplitude," the word sensory experts use to describe flavors that are well blended and balanced, that "bloom" in the mouth. "The difference between high and low amplitude is the difference between my son and a great pianist playing 'Ode to Joy' on the piano," Chambers says. "They are playing the same notes, but they blend better with the great pianist." Pepperidge Farm shortbread cookies are considered to have high amplitude. So are Hellman's mayonnaise and Sara Lee poundcake. When something is high in amplitude, all its constituent elements converge into a single gestalt. You can't isolate the elements of an iconic, high-amplitude flavor like Coca-Cola or Pepsi. But you can with one of those private-label colas that you get in the supermarket. "The thing about Coke and Pepsi is that they are absolutely gorgeous," Judy Heylmun, a vice-president of Sensory Spectrum, Inc., in Chatham, New Jersey, says. "They have beautiful notes--all flavors are in balance. It's very hard to do that well. Usually, when you taste a store cola it's"-- and here she made a series of pik! pik! pik! sounds--"all the notes are kind of spiky, and usually the citrus is the first thing to spike out. And then the cinnamon. Citrus and brown spice notes are top notes and very volatile, as opposed to vanilla, which is very dark and deep. A really cheap store brand will have a big, fat cinnamon note sitting on top of everything."
This makes perfect sense, I think. Even last weekend, it was clear that the difference between the most basic wines and wines of better quality begins with the number of different notes in the composition [and, by inference, the very best wines are the ones with both a wide range of notes as well as excellent integration]: the Fetzer gewürztraminer was nothing more than orange or rose petal with sugar, whereas the Lindemans Bin 65 at least had distinct oak and buttery characteristics, whereas the much better Neil Ellis sauvignon blanc had an interesting, if still limited [hey, it's only $10] range of notes, with herbal, grassy, mineral, acidic, and finally black peppery notes ringing through.

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