Wine Tasting: Have the Japanese Hijacked our Tastebuds?

tongueJust in case you thought that tasting wine was a simple, pleasurable thing, let me assure you that it’s way more complicated than you think. You’ve probably heard that you’re supposed to swirl and sniff your wine before letting it hit your taste buds, but I bet you thought the “tasting” part was pretty straightforward.

Boy, were you wrong. Apparently there are not five, but six flavor components that can be detected by our taste buds, and any of these can impact how we perceive the wine we’re tasting. A new Japanese study reported in just revealed this sixth taste sensation, previously unknown to modern science (and modern tasters).

Scientists and wine drinkers have always agreed that there are four basic tastes that the taste buds on our tongue can detect — sweet, sour, bitter, and salty — plus something called “umami” invented by Japanese researchers. I’ve tried to get a definition of this “umami,” and the closest anyone can come is to say it’s a “protein” taste found in foods such as soy sauce and aged or dried meats.

Really? That doesn’t remind me of any wine I’ve ever tasted, and thankfully wine experts admit it’s not really a factor in wine tasting. That’s a relief, because I don’t want to have to start digging for protein flavors in my Cabernet.

But wait, there’s more… The sixth taste invented by Japanese scientists is called ” kokumi.” The problem is, no one can agree on what it tastes like. The best they can come up with is that it’s related to calcium, and may not be a flavor at all but something that enhances flavors by triggering calcium receptors on the tongue.

I’m sorry, but if the experts can’t even agree on what a “taste” tastes like, why should I have to pay any attention to it? I think the Japanese should leave our taste buds alone, and let us sip, slurp and swallow in peace. I for one am gonna stick to simple flavors such as “blackberries,” “vanilla” and “pencil shavings” (I always wondered about that one). I invite you to join me, and say Cheers!

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2 Responses to “Wine Tasting: Have the Japanese Hijacked our Tastebuds?”

  • It’s hard to seek out knowledgeable people on this topic, however you sound like you understand what you’re talking about! Thanks

  • Hello there, just became aware of your blog through Google, and found that it is really informative I’m going to watch out for brussels I will be grateful if you continue this in future Lots of people will be benefited from your writing Cheers!

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