5 Basic Taste Sensations

How Focusing on the 5 Basic Taste Sensations Can Help Your Pairings

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Off the Vine
Wine & Food Matching
Mastering the five basic taste sensations will help you in wine and food matching

 

2nd Principle: THE FIVE BASIC TASTE SENSATIONS

That is to say, what your taste buds perceive, whether you are tasting wine or food:

Sweetness – Related to amount of residual sugar in both foods and wines; sensed by taste buds located towards at the tip of the tongue.

Sour/tartness – Degree of acidity in both foods and wines (more so in whites than in reds); tasted at the center and sides of the tongue.

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Saltiness – Not a significant component in wine, but important in how a wine relates to it in foods; tasted near center of tongue.

Bitterness – Tasted in many foods, and in the tannin content of red wines (to a lesser degree in whites); tasted towards the rear of the tongue.

Umami – The flattering, amino acid related sense of “deliciousness” found in many foods, and to a limited extent in wines (location of “umami taste buds” on palate indeterminate)

3rd Principle: KEY TACTILE SENSATIONS

Like the hot/cold of chocolate syrup and ice cream, these are some key factors in many food/wine matches:

Density, body or weight – The sense of light vs. heavy contributed by proteins, fats and/or carbs in foods, and primarily related to degree of alcohol content in wines (bolstered by tannin in reds)

Soft/crisp textures – Tactile contrasts in foods; and in wines, smooth or easy vs. hard, sharp or angular.

Spicy/hot – Feel of heat when chiles, peppers or horseradishes are used in foods; not felt as a tactile sensation in wines, but suggested in aromas and flavors (“spice” notes).

4th Principle:  FLAVOR IS AROMA RELATED

Without the sense of smell, neither foods nor wines have “flavor.”  Example:  the taste and tactile sensations in an apple, a pineapple, and an onion are similar in that they are all sweet, crisp yet juicy, with some degree of acidity, but they all give a distinctly different flavor perceived through the sense of smell. 

By the same token, both Cabernet Sauvignon and a Petite Sirah are two types of red wine that tend to be dark, full bodied, dry, and fairly hard in tannin; but the Cabernet gives aromas and flavors of herbal, minty, berry/cassis aromas and flavors, whereas the Petite Sirah gives ripe berry/blueberry and black peppercorn-like aromas and flavors.

5th Principle: THE TWO WAYS WINES & FOODS ARE SUCCESSFULLY MATCHED

Two gastronomic pioneers of the 1980s, David Rosengarten and Joshua Wesson, deserve full credit for first formulating these two self-evident concepts for food and wine:

Similarities – When there are similar taste sensations in both a dish and a wine (example:  the buttery sauce in a fish dish enhanced by the creamy or buttery texture of an oak barrel fermented white wine).

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