It’s one of the most celebrated and classical food-beverage pairings in gastronomy: champagne and oysters. And a new study from the University of Copenhagen has discovered why they taste so good together.
The secret lies in the umami flavours found in both. Umami is one of the five basic tastes, alongside sweet, bitter, salty, and sour. It was discovered by a Japanese researcher in 1908, with the literal translation of the term meaning “pleasant, savoury taste” or “yummy”.
“Food and drink pair well when they spark an umami synergy from combinations of glutamate, which come from dead yeast cells in the champagne, and certain nucleotides, which come from the oysters,” Charlotte Vinther Schmidt, a research assistant who led the study, said.
A longstanding question has been whether this kind of pairing is more art than science.
“Obviously, chefs and sommeliers know their trade and can rationalise the way they match food and beverages by contrast and affinity, matching oyster properties like meatiness, salinity, and fattiness with champagne properties like minerality, brininess, and prickling acidity,” the study notes.
“We hypothesize that champagne and oysters are good companions in terms of taste because of their pairing may facilitate umami synergy.”
However, the researchers found that some Champagnes contain more umami flavour than others – Champagnes that have had longer lees ageing contain higher glutamate levels.
Several vintage and non-vintage wines were part of the study, including AR Lenoble’s ‘Chouilly’ grand cru blanc de blancs NV, Lanson Black Label NV, Duval-Leroy ‘Femme de Champagne’ grand cru 2000 and Taittinger Brut Millésime 2000.
Sounds like the perfect excuse to splash out on bubbles and oysters this Christmas.
Tyson Stelzer has named his Top 12 Champagnes of 2020: Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru 2008; Deutz Amour de Deutz Brut Millésime 2008 en magnum; Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 168 NV; Egly-Ouriet Brut Grand Cru Millésime 2008; Bollinger La Grande Année 2012; Louis Roederer Cristal 2012; Louis Roederer Cristal Rosé 2012; Bollinger PN VZ15 NV; Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 2009; Charles Heidsieck Millésime Brut 2012; Ayala No 7 2007; Franck Bonville Collection Privée 2008.