An introduction to Umami, and how it pertains to wine

Want to out geek the wine geeks in the room? Start tossing around your ability to sense the umami in a wine. Introduced to me first by Terry Theise, who describes it as “the taste of yourself tasting”, umami has a legitimate role in the world of wine tasting, and definitely in the food world.

As said in a Wall Street Journal piece in 2007: “Chefs including Jean-Georges Vongerichten are offering what they call “umami bombs,” dishes that pile on ingredients naturally rich in umami for an explosive taste.”

So what is it?  It’s a Japanese word basically meaning savory, and it’s quite common in the likes of roasted tomatoes, seaweed, mushrooms, great aged cheeses, and anchovies.  Once you’re attuned to taking notice of it, it’s amazing how often it comes up in a wine.

In fact, I’ll go so far as to say this: the ‘new European red taste profile’ that Annette Peters has been talking about so much is based in the savory finish of many of those wines.  The new wines from Peuch Ariol, as well as new Sicilian selection forthcoming all contain this base of lasting flavor.

For more information on this fascinating subject, read this Wikipedia entry, take a look at this CBS News story, or this Wall Street Journal article.

Lastly, here’s a great article by Randy Capsaro writing for The Wine Lover’s Page on ‘Deconstructing Umami’.


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