A dieting programme on British TV in the early 2000s used shock tactics to encourage better eating: the host laid out a table showing the participants’ diet over the past week next to a table of fresh fruits and vegetables. It was a contrast of beige-brown hamburgers, chips and chocolate snacks next to a rainbow of root vegetables and vibrant leafy greens. Staleness and stagnation next to energy and life. Just the colours alone were enough to make you vow to breakfast on salad for the rest of eternity
Trouble is it’s hard to find satisfaction in a meal of greens. The body naturally craves proteins and thirsts for sugars when feeling unsatisfied. Meat, dairy and eggs easily add the right stuff to make us feel fine. While the team at You Are What You Eat might have made it look good to eat healthy, they couldn’t make it taste good to the viewer.
The UMAMU in UMAMU Estate is inspired by umami, that 5th flavour that enhances satisfaction. In all the wines we make we seek that feeling of contentment that comes from elements in balance. Learning to find your own point of satisfaction – finding your UMAMU – can be a great concept as you begin designing healthy dishes that delight you.
Finding your UMAMU
There are so many theories on wine pairing: reds with meats; whites with fish; local dishes for local wines. There exists the traditional philosophy of complementary wine pairing – where you match wine characteristics with dish characteristics – and contrasting wine pairing, which is the opposite. Many guides will give great advice, like picking a wine more acidic than the food, and choosing more bitter wines to cut through fat. But we think that your satisfaction is the ultimate goal of good pairing, so why not use that as a benchmark?
The history of the fifth flavour, umami, is intertwined with satisfaction. In Japanese, the word literally means ‘delicious taste’ or ‘scrumptiousness’ and umami-rich seasonings were developed in the early 1900s to give poor farmers a meal of kings. While achieving the perfect balance of umami flavours remains an art, it is that feeling of satisfaction the UMAMU in UMAMU Estate represents.
Think back to memories of meals that dazzled you. Perhaps fine wine was involved, or perhaps you remember warm feelings of fulness from your Grandma’s wise hand. Was it the cooking? Was it the wine? Was it the balance of acidity in both? Once you know your sights are set on satisfaction, these questions become an adventure in themselves.
Umami is the flavour of amino acids, protein and feelings of fullness and satisfaction. Japanese scientist Kikunae Ikeda isolated the umami taste from Japanese Kombu seaweed in 1908, creating MSG, and in the early 2000s scientists accepted umami as the fifth flavour.
Some wine pairing principles to get you started
Now that satisfaction is in our sights, wine pairing principles can be useful as a starting point. These principles can help you when choosing wines based on what’s in season, what you love to eat, or even what you’d like to eat. If you’ve got some wine in the cellar, then you’ve a head start in the supermarket. So long as you’ve got a wine and a dish idea that share something in common – the deep & meaningfuls can come later.
At UMAMU Estate, we think of food and wine as two characters having a conversation. The conversation exists along a spectrum from light-bodied to medium-bodied wines – and light-bodied to medium-bodied food. More body in a wine can mean more acid, more tannins, a warmer growing season and more oaking. More body in a dish is more flavour, more intensive cooking method, more spice, more sauces, more meat and more creaminess.
You might think that healthier dishes = more vegetables = lighter-bodied wine pairings. But mushrooms cooked in a rich and herby red wine sauce with polenta could stand up to a red wine pairing. This is where the creativity comes in: once you start looking for your UMAMU, you can learn to find it from any starting point.
A guide to understanding food and wine pairings by the 'body' of a dish or varietal.
Let’s look at some examples
In our wine pairing blog, we are always trying to explore gluten-free, vegetarian and healthy dishes that can still make our Margaret River wines sing. Here’s a look at how the pairings are working to bring UMAMU to each dish:
- UMAMU Estate Cabernet Franc with green olive, artichoke and feta tart. This smokey, ruby-red wine rich in red fruit flavours cuts nicely through the briny flavours of the artichokes, olive and feta. The classic quiche pastry and cream and cheddar filling give body to the dish, which the extra tannins and acidity in the red wine deal with nicely.
- UMAMU Estate Sauvignon Blanc Semillon with prawn, avocado, cucumber and corn tacos. The essence of this dish is lighter-bodied prawns and avocado, so a natural partner for a white wine. From there the fresh, citrusy tacos with a hint on heat and saltiness perfectly match the lime, snow-pea and crisp notes in a Sauvignon Blanc Semillon.
- UMAMU sparkling with roughly pesto and buckwheat pasta. Buckwheat pasta might seem an odd occasion to crack open some bubbly, put a buttery sparkling wine can cut nicely through the rich umami savouriness of a pesto pasta. The sparkling adds a touch of, well, sparkle to an otherwise dense dish.