Friday, December 22, 2006

Crabwise: "PUNAMI?"

Recently, we added California’s Kalin Cellars Semillon 1996 to the wine list at our restaurant. I had tried the wine when our wine rep first brought it in, but didn’t know much about it other than the fact that 1996 was the current vintage in release and that the grapes come from vines that were planted in the 1880s from the original Chateau d'Yquem cuttings brought to this region by Charles Wetmore.

It was a customer of mine who explained that the winemakers aged the wine using a process called “Punami.” This made me curious because of the similarity of this word to “Punani,” so I decided to investigate further. Here is what I found: The word the gentleman was referring to is actually “Umami,” which is not an aging process, but, apparently, a fifth taste sensation:

Umami (Japanese: 旨み、旨味、うまみ) is one of the five basic tastes sensed by specialized receptor cells present on the human tongue.

The chart below (which resembles some sort of Ayurvedic diet chart) displays the five basic tastes.

Upon tasting Kalin Cellars Semillon again, edified by this new information, I did taste something different… and me likey. I would descibe the “Umami” present in the wine as an almost meaty/barnyardy flavor which really enhances the flavor of food.

If you’d like to learn more about Umami, you can find more info at:


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