Food and wine pairing can be a bit tricky for the average consumer. That’s understandable when you consider how many countless styles and varieties of wine there are in the world today. Not to mention the immeasurable amount of ingredients, recipes, and cuisines to take into consideration. Rather than being overwhelmed by all the possible options and variations for food and wine pairings, it’s best to master a few simple concepts that will help you create delicious matches every time. First, rather than being overwhelmed by components of a dish, determine how much salt, fat, acid, heat, and umami flavor is in the dish.
Secondly, begin to understand the different characteristics in wine like acidity, body, tannin, sweetness levels, and flavor profile. With the latter, it’s best to understand how primary, secondary, and tertiary flavors vary. But even if you don’t know any of that, simply start with acidity and tannin. Then determine if the wine has more of a fruity or savory flavor profile. These characteristics play a crucial role in successful food and wine pairings.
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at how to pair wines with dishes with umami flavor.
How does umami taste?
Umami is the elusive, savory deliciousness that adds depth of flavor to some of our favorite dishes. It coats the tongue, adds complexity, and provides long-lasting flavor. Umami means something like “the essence of deliciousness” in Japanese and is typically described as earthy, meaty, or savory. It could be considered the fifth flavor in addition to bitter, salty, sour, or sweet.
What foods have umami flavor?
As far as ingredients go, common foods loaded with umami flavor include mushrooms, ripe tomatoes, certain aged cheeses like Parmigiano Reggiano, seafood, meats, seaweed, soy sauce, and more.
Think of a juicy grilled burger made with premium beef smothered in sautéed mushrooms. Or sushi with that richness and depth of flavor that lingers on the palate from the seaweed and soy sauce. Even roasted asparagus, spicy miso grilled eggplant, or a blistered garlic and cherry tomato spread are all full of delectable umami flavor.
Need some recipe inspiration to experience the 5th taste for yourself? Check out this round up of over 50 recipes on The FeedFeed.
Why is it challenging to pair wines with umami foods?
When selecting wine pairings for umami laden dishes, you’ll need to remember how this flavor characteristic influences your palate’s perception of wine. Umami will increase the perception of astringency, bitterness, acidity, and the heat from alcohol in the wine. Alternatively, it decreases the perception of body, sweetness, and fruitiness in wine.
The Best Wine Styles for Umami Pairings
With the effects of umami flavor on wine in mind, the best wine styles to pair with these types of foods are those with concentrated fruit flavors, low to medium tannin, and medium to full body. You’ll want to stay away from high tannin wines, as they will seem way out of balance and more astringent with the effects of umami. There is one exception to this rule – red meat. It has umami richness (depending on how it’s prepared) with salt and fats that will soften tannins on the palate.
White wines that pair well with umami flavors include Sauvignon Blanc, off-dry Riesling, Falanghina, Grüner Veltliner, and Vermentino. These wines are bursting with complementary fruit flavors and many are delightful alongside Asian cuisine and seafood.
For red wines, try Pinot Noir, Zweigelt, Corvina, Lambrusco, or Sangiovese, all of which are fruit forward with low to medium tannins and a bright flavor profile.