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Chris Corley
September 20, 2008 | Tasting Wine | Chris Corley

Sharps and Flats

I was tasting through some 2007 lots recently working on a blend, and it reminded me of my piano. Specifically the black keys. When we're putting together blends, we eventually work our way down to 2% increments. The interesting thing you observe after doing this enough times is that blending is not a linear art. A component may taste good at 4%, better at 6%, but out of sync at 8%. You don't want to stop there ! My inclination is to push it to 10% or 12% to make sure we didn't just hit a sharp or flat.

Just like my piano, there are scales that work and musical reasons that certain notes work well with others. I would guess that the majority of people can identify an off-note the instant they hear it, independent of their culture or preferred style of music. Perhaps the ear develops culturally in similar ways to the palate. Certain combinations of notes and scales that may sound ethereal to one culture may be grating to the ears of a listener from the other side of the globe. Sometimes an appreciation of another culture's music takes a little effort, and by understanding its history and instrumentation, you can better appreciate that culture's music. Replace the word 'music' with the word 'wine' in that last sentence and you can see what I mean.

Unlike my piano, with wines the scales are not pre-determined. You need to find them, at times coerce and entice them out of the barrel each time you put a blend together. While there are no pre-determined scales with wine, the concept of sharps and flats is real. Theoretically, sharps and flats shouldn't always sound good. A-flat doesn't sound so good played with just a D. But when you slip it into a D-major groove as a grace note, you're ready to shake your booty. I don't know why, it just sounds good. Sometimes its the same thing with blending wine. This is yet another reason wine will amaze and intrigue man until the end of time. As will music.

There's a lot of overused metaphors for wine, and I don't mean to add to it - but I will. For me, blending wine can be a lot like writing a song on my piano. You start from scratch with a simple groove and a riff in your head. You need to get from that riff to the song in your head, and in order to that you need to let your mind drift a little. You need to get into the ether a little bit so you can feel what you're doing from a distance. Wines have rhythms, blues notes, scales, sharps and flats just like a groovy tune - you just need to let loose and let them come to you ...


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