How to find umami in wine?
It was one of the last flavours to be discovered. Have you ever heard of it? The last WineClass is on umami. Learn what’s behind this flavour and get some key tips for perceiving it when you taste a wine.
After nine fascinating episodes of WineClass, we’re ending this set of mini lessons with the last flavour to be discovered in the world of wine: umami. Have you ever heard of this flavour?
Let’s look into the enigma of the fifth flavour! Hit play and enjoy the last episode of WineClass.
What is umami and what does it mean?
To understand what umami is, we firstly need to know where it comes from. Do you know where this term comes from? It’s Japanese.
Umami means “pleasant flavour”, and the word is made up of two concepts: umai, which means “delicious”, and mi, which is Japanese for “flavour”.
How was umami discovered?
Until some time ago, there were only four recognised basic flavours in the world: sweet, salty, sour and bitter. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 21st century (1908) when a Japanese scientist called Kikunae Ikeda discovered what we now know as the “fifth flavour”.
Ikeda worked out that a specific amino acid, monosodium glutamate, produced a flavour sensation that couldn’t be pigeon-holed into one of the other four flavours. That’s why he decided to give this sensation its own name: umami.
But how can we detect this new flavour? And what about in wine? Let’s look at some of its features.
How to distinguish umami
Even if the way to understand and detect this flavour is somewhat abstract, these are some of its specific features.
Umami is that feeling that brings together sweet and salty notes and leaves a lingering tasty flavour in the whole mouth. In fact, strangely enough, umami is not really a flavour, but rather a flavour enhancer. That’s why it's so difficult to describe.
To work out if your wine is umami or if you’re eating an umami-rich food, you need to turn to your taste buds. There are also specific receptors for this flavour!
What part of the tongue do you think umami stimulates? Right in the centre.
The classic foods in this group are ones with a great aftertaste, rich in monosodium glutamate. For example, the most characteristic one (which is also emblematic of East Asian cuisine, is soy sauce.
If you want to train your palate, the trick we would suggest is dripping a few drops of soy sauce onto the centre of your tongue. It’s that simple! You’ll easily be able to sense the intense taste as it spreads across your mouth.
Some other umami-rich foods in Spanish cuisine are: tomatoes, asparagus, meat, anchovies and even Iberian ham! Parmesan cheese is also rich in umami.
Umami in wine
The term umami is coming up more often in the world of wines, and it's not unusual to see it in the tasting notes of some products. But can wines actually be umami? Yes, they can. We’ll tell you which ones.
In general terms, wines with a greater amount of the fifth flavour are ones that have been aged for longer. As such, we can find umami in red and white wines and rosés, as long as they have been aged for long enough.
Remember, when we talk about ageing, we could mean barrel ageing or lees ageing.
Some of the best examples of this are El Coto Crianza for barrel ageing, and Coto de Imaz Reserva Blanco for lees ageing. Have you tried them yet? You can find them on our El Coto de Rioja online store right below.
Is WineClass over? Never! You can watch the episodes of WineClass as much as you want on the El Coto de Rioja YouTube channel. All of the episodes are there in full.
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