I’m no sommelier, but even I know that oysters and champagne go together really well. It’s like they went to grade school together. There’s that briny oceanic finish of the oysters, those tart tiny bubbles, the big price tag. C’est magnifique.
Researchers at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Food Science dove into the flavors of what makes champagne and oysters so compelling, and it mainly boils down to the savory flavor we describe as umami. Science Daily has the report.
“The answer is to be found in the so-called umami taste, which along with sweet and salty, is one of the five basic flavours detectable to human taste buds,” says Professor Ole G. Mouritsen. “Many people associate umami with the flavour of meat. But now, we have discovered that it is also found in both oysters and champagne.”
We know that umami is a characteristic flavor found in oysters, as they provide nucleotides, a component of umami. In champagne, the umami flavor comes from the glutamates within the dead yeast which fermented the bubbly. You might not know it, but yeast is used as an additive in many foods to bolster that umami flavor because it contains glutamates. Some nucleotides play really well with glutamate, which is why champagne is such an ideal beverage pairing. Add the acidity and fun carbonation, and you’ve got a fancy pair.
Professor Mouritsen believes that it’s the flavor of umami that could actually coax people into eating more vegetables that lack savory aspects. If a sprinkle of MSG makes me eat an entire bag of Doritos, who knows, maybe it’ll get me to eat a whole bushel of Brussels sprouts.