You Know Sweet, Sour, Salt, & Bitter, But Who’s Umami?

Chapter Two, Part Five.
Caroline in Tuscan Kitchen 1_edited-1Experts have long believed you only perceive four tastes – sweet, sour, salt and bitter – but another taste was identified in Japan over 100 years ago that has only recently gained acceptance in gustatory circles worldwide. Umami is a subtle taste that’s easily masked by more assertive flavors. It is best described as meaty, satisfying and rich, which sounds kind of like the perfect date.

Western palates are generally unaccustomed to recognizing umami so don’t lose any sleep if you find it illusive. When I first learned of umami I undertook a grueling exploration that increased the scope of my taste nearly as much as it increased the scope of my waist. Believe me, it’s not the first time I’ve had to buy a few belts for this blog.

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Get In Touch With Texture; Tannin Versus Dryness.

Chapter Two, Part Three.
Wine has texture as well as flavorTexture is paramount to appreciating wine so I put a great deal of emphasis on deciphering its tactile sensations. When describing wine make note not just of the aroma and taste, but of how the wine feels. Now I know a lot of you guys get a little queasy talking about your feelings, so I promise to get through this quickly, even if it takes all night.

Wines come in a variety of textures, some of which will appeal to you, and some of which will not. When you first taste wine ask yourself “How do I describe the texture of this wine?” Does it feel harsh or silky? Is it lean and austere or rich and flamboyant? Do you find it thin or fat, wimpy or muscular? The weight of wine is also perceived by your sense of touch. Does the wine feel light or heavy in your mouth?

Many wines are described as crisp in texture. You may like that quality in a Pinot Grigio or a $100 bill but dislike it in Grenache. Other wines are said to be creamy. Once again, this may be a desirable trait for Merlot or some Chardonnays but creamy is not a trait you look for in Navy seals or Grüner Veltliner.

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