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The 5's

You recently said, "The fifth taste, umami, is a more complicated issue in wine tasted without food." Please tell us more!
Answer From Expert Roger Bohmrich MW

The intriguing phenomenon known as umami is best described as an amplification of overall taste along with a savory feeling.
The concept of umami has been known intuitively for centuries, explaining in part the pungent fish sauces that have been used in many societies. The origin of this unique taste was identified in 1908 by Kikunae Ikeda. Diverse foodstuffs such as beef, bonito, soy sauce, and mushrooms contain the amino acids and nucleotides that create the umami effect. A similar result can be achieved artificially with monosodium glutamate (MSG).
Wine by itself does not have the elements to provide the sensation associated with umami although some tasters do use the word in a very loose way as a wine descriptor. It is probably more accurate to say that the savory enhancement known as umami could be found in certain combinations of wines and foods. It would be far easier to explain this in the moment when you find just that particular effect...such as a velvety, mature red wine and beef tenderloin with a rich sauce of cremini mushrooms based on a meat reduction.

About Our Expert

Roger has enjoyed a lengthy career in the wine trade as an importer and retailer, and at present he is an educator, speaker and consultant. He set up and managed Millesima USA, a New York merchant affiliated with a leading European company. Previously, he served as senior executive of importers Frederick Wildman & Sons. In recent years, Roger has judged wine competitions in Argentina, Turkey, Portugal, China and the U.S. Roger is one of America's first Masters of Wine.

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