April 24, 2013

I plan to talk about Wine Apps in a few days but couldn’t wait to let you know about “WineQuest” which, and I quote, “after a quick taste interview can predict if you’re going to love, like, or simply hate a wine before you buy it”.

Tim Hanni, MW, is behind WineQuest. He is also known as the Swami of Umami. The company is working with the Food & Beverage industry to fulfill its corporate vision “All consumers are empowered to freely express their preferences and to discover and buy wines with confidence”. They suggest that progressive wine lists could be produced and organised by flavour to help a consumer zoom in on the types of wines they know they enjoy.

So back to Umami, the fifth element of taste along with sweet, sour, salt and bitter. It is a pleasant savoury taste imparted by glutamate, a type of amino acid. Glutamate rich foods include seaweed, asparagus, cheeses (especially Parmigiano-Reggiano), soy sauce, fish sauce, green tea, tomatoes. Some of these foods could be considered as “wine enemies” the umami within increasing the acidity, astringency and bitterness of the wine at the same time as decreasing its body and fruit flavours. Apparently, however, if a little lemon is served with the asparagus then it is no longer an enemy allowing the wine and food to be enjoyed together.

Umami is also present in meats, seafood and some vegetables. Ripeness seems to increase the levels as do certain processes such as drying, curing, fermenting etc. The fermentation process is of course part of winemaking. Hanni has found that big ripe red wines such as Australian Shiraz and white wines that have extended lees contact such as ripe and creamy Chardonnays and some Champagnes tend to have the most umami. So perhaps instead of savoury as a descriptor for such wines I will need to start describing the tastes as umami.

I find this all really fascinating and will continue to follow the developments as it picks holes in some basic food & wine-matching principles. To cut a long story short, Hanni is suggesting the art of “Flavour Balancing” will allow us to drink any wine we want with any dish we want (within reason). At its most basic this is apparently as easy as adding salt and acidity in the form of lemon, vinegar or mustard to a dish. Food for thought…..

Take a look at the App, the taste interview is very interesting. Then rate some of the suggested wines to make it even more personalised. I used it to check on the wines in my wine fridge and it seems I am going to love them all which is perhaps not the best test! I can see that it will be a very useful tool to help with wine choices in a restaurant or at the wine store.



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