Discovering Umami, the Fifth Taste Sensation

Asparagus  some rights reserved by jamesonf

(some rights reserved by jamesonf)

No, Virginia, umami isn’t the name of Cal’s new defensive strategy. Instead, umami is the fifth taste sensation, along with sweet, sour, bitter and salty.

The word dates back to 1908, when Kikunae Ikeda, the creator of monosodium glutamate (MSG), isolated glutamates as a fifth taste source and called it umami. Ikeda claimed that, even though it was salty, umami was distinct from the salt we taste on our tongues.

According to the Umami Information Center, “umami is a pleasant savory taste imparted by glutamate…and ribonucleotides…, which occur naturally in many foods including meat, fish, vegetables and dairy products.”

Why do we care about umami in the wine world? Well, it turns out that umami plays a key role in how we enjoy food and wine together.

Tim Hanni, a Master of Wine who has the nickname “the swami of umami,” says that coupling wine with an umami-rich food such as asparagus can result in a bitter, unhappy tasting experience.

The good news is that Tim has a simple solution for this problem. He tells us to add lemon and salt to the asparagus.

Really? Really. Adding lemon and salt gets rid of the bitter, unhappy tasting experience. The wine gets smoother and softer.

Try it at your tailgate party this week or next!

Cheers to a WINEderful game! GO BEARS!



As an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I’m privileged to be able to bring the taste of the Napa wine country to you through a delicious offering of artisan wines, wonderful in-home wine tastings, personalized wines and my wine blog, Betty’s Wine Musings. If you have any wine needs I can help you out with, please free to contact me. I look forward to WINEing with you!



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