Umami is a lovely thing. It can be a subtle sensation, a gentle, sapid, savoury ache that washes over the taste buds and gets the saliva working overtime, noticeable in many foods such as Parmesan cheese, truffles, tomatoes, kombu, dashi, soy sauce and aged beef.
Certain wines also display umami, skin– contact whites immediately come to mind, but it is probably most noticeable in wines that have seen some degree of oxidation… think sherry and some of the sous–voile wines of the Jura and you are in that space.
Sous–voile, meaning under the veil, is one of those annoyingly sexy turns of phrase that the French seem very good at. The veil, in this case refers to the thin, diaphanous ‘flor’ of yeast that settles on the surface of wines that are kept in ullaged barrels. It allows the wine to oxidise gently over time, not too much though, resulting in wines that display complex, nutty characters and a definite umami–ness.
While other Australian producers have noodled around with oxidation in wines, ex–New York City sommelier and now McLaren Vale winemaker Brad Hickey has taken us closest to those famous wine styles of Eastern France with the release of his 2008 Brash Higgins Bloom Chardonnay that spends a total of eight years sous–voile.
Deeply coloured and endlessly complex, it is nutty and gushes with umami characters, savoury and mouth–filling with flavours and aromas of grilled nuts, shitake mushrooms, amontillado sherry notes, oyster shell and broth. It is perhaps a little heavier–set than its European counterparts and, as such, is perfect chilled as an aperitif or to finish a meal. A glass of this and a few slices of comté and you are in the zone.
Brash Higgins 2008 Bloom