Umami-rich foods and Champagne

Perhaps it is time to expand our repertoire when it comes to matching Champagne with food. (Photo: Lowveld website)

Serving Champagne alongside umami-rich food seems to promote its flavour and complexity.

This concept may seem counterintuitive to Australians who regularly serve Champagne before a meal rather than with food. From my experience, foods with strong umami elements have a magnification effect on the savouriness of a Champagne.

From my experience, foods with strong umami elements have a magnification effect on the savouriness of a Champagne.

This occurrence became apparent when I found myself with the unusual food combination of Perrier Jouët Champagne alongside a bowl of shoyu ramen topped with braised pork belly and crisp nori. The dish alone was magnificent, but what amazed me was the effect that it had on the Champagne.

The Perrier Jouët changed from being discreet, elegant and subtle to a highly expressive wine with layers of savoury complexity. The transformation, in a matter of moments, was quite extraordinary. Without the food, the wine didn’t appear to have enough intensity to pair with such a flavoursome dish. But with the food, the wine’s true flavour depth was revealed.

I have since tried other food combinations, and each time the character of the Champagne has been enhanced.

Choosing the right food to serve with wine is, of course, a fundamental element of gastronomy. However, serving umami-rich food alongside Champagne is not something I have focused on before.

It seems, however, that wine lovers may have been doing it unwittingly. Gougères, which are made with umami-rich Emmental, are a fabulous accompaniment to Champagne, as are oysters.

Though perhaps it is time to expand our repertoire when it comes to matching Champagne with food. Using ingredients such as dried shitake mushrooms, miso, soy, dashi, dried tomatoes, parmesan, anchovies and cured ham may be useful in bringing out the flavour of Champagne.

One thought on “Umami-rich foods and Champagne”

  1. Geir Salvesen says:

    I had the same experience with the same Champagne. Perrier Jouët Champagne. There is probably a chemical reason to this. What characterize Champagne is long storage on the lees. This creates an umami effect in the wine because of the amino acids released by the chemical change in the lees as time goes by. It gives a hand shake between wine and food. This is a little understood area.

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