Saturday, May 27, 2006

What has MSG got to do with wine?

Although Umami is not synonymous with MSG, it is a sensory reaction to MSG. It can be derived from amino acid (protein containing food), meat, fish, squid and prawns (fresh and dried), dried scallops, mushroom, soy sauce, tomatoes, chinese cabbage, seaweed, aged cheese. The taste receptor for Umami, identified by a team of scientists in the University of Miami, is called “taste-mGluR4”. The Umami receptors are distributed along the side (fungiform) and the back of our tongue (circumvallate). They are in close proximity to the sensory for tannins which is the astringent mouth-feel when we drink a cup of thick tea or a glass of young Bordeaux wine.

What does all this mean to pairing food and wine? The taste receptor for Umami has a great influence on the choice of wine. Red wine made with grapes from cool or maritime climate, for example, Bordeaux, Piedmonte ..etc, will generally have a higher level of tannins and acidity. Wine from these regions will benefit from longer skin contact and the presence of lactic acid. Therefore, red wine that has a complex palate will go well with food prepared with soya sauce (lots of lactic acid) or cooked with sources of umami.

Cher Lim
Wine Treasures (Singapore)



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