Wine Sommelier Ambrose Chiang Meets Air Sommelier Emily Parsons-Lord

July 29, 2015

Underbelly Arts Festival celebrates bold new voices in contemporary art.

One of the most exciting things is that these voices are not only bold, but curious about what each other are thinking and doing with their art.

Sommelier at Momofuku Seiōbo, Ambrose Chiang, met with Emily Parsons-Lord, a PhD candidate and artist who has created The Airrarium; a bar where you can taste air from different eras in Earth’s history.

These two specialists spent hours discussing the subtleties of palate, origin and affect, and trading some secrets of the mysterious sommelier trade. Key tip from Ambrose? You know you’ve done your job right when the taster tells you it reminds them of something else; whether it’s a place, smell, memory or another wine, then you know you’ve evoked their senses.

Presented below are notes from their conversation. Emily presented various air samples to Ambrose in chronological order. She attached a tasting straw to bags of synthesised air, he inhaled.  

Read what he tasted….


Carboniferous Air 

Vintage: 300-350 million years ago. 

Terrroir: This is the air from the age of the giants. An age when trees evolved their own trunks and grew into giants, releasing a surplus of oxygen. The high rate of oxygen makes the air thick and full of energy, allowing giant insects to evolve. 

Tasting Note: This air is fresh, crisp, clean, and energetic. Rich in oxygen and low in carbon dioxide, the air from the Carboniferous Era can be deeply inhaled and gives the breather a surge of energy. 

Ambrose: This air is very subtle. A good point to start – I am still confused at this stage, it gives me room to wonder. 

The Great Dying Air

Vintage: 252.5 million years ago

Terroir:  This air is from the greatest extinction even in Earth’s history, where 93-97% of species died out. This period is simultaneous with a massive spike in carbon dioxide. 

Tasting notes: This is calming air, best enjoyed by sipping. Low in Oxygen and high in carbon dioxide, this air is sharp and tart, with mild acidity. This air has a calming effect when breathed deeply.

Ambrose – [This air is] all about texture on the inhale. There is nothing ‘alive’ in this air. This air is fizzy, it shuts you down and you can’t taste anything else, it’s like soda water. This air makes you more focussed. It hits you with the flavour of breakfast.

Dessert Air

Vinatge: 1666

Terroir: C17th Europe

Tasting notes: This is an “after dinner air”. It has a floral palette with notes of honeysuckle* and jasmine.

*The notes for tasting this air come from diaries of people who were witness to the Black Death that tore through Europe in 1666. They wrote that one of the first symptoms of having contracted The Plague was that the air began to taste sweet, like honeysuckle. 

Ambrose: This one delivers that sweetness on the inhale. There is a fresh honey flavour. This [air] has poetry about it… there is a connection to history, human history in a romantic, poetic way. It is good to know where you got the original tasting notes from, I’m interested.

Future Air

Vintage: TBC

Terroir: Earth, in 300-400 hundred years

Tasting notes: This is a human synthesised air that will remain in the atmosphere for the next 300-400 years. This air is heavy, six times heavier than our common air, and has bold base notes of earthy minerals.

Ambrose: This is an exhale texture, rather than an inhale texture, like the Great Dying air. You really feel it when you speak. You feel it in your body.

The Airrarium will be at the Underbelly Arts Festival on August 1-2 on Cockatoo Island.

Image: Emily Parsons-Lord and Ambrose Chiang hold an air tasting at The Airrarium, Ash Berdebes