I’m sure you already know that umami is the Japanese word for “meatiness” or the deep richness of parmesan cheese, mushrooms, certain red wines, and tomato sauce. It’s what makes something taste layered and interesting. So I often seek out wines and beers with good umami. Sure, I like a refreshing Chablis or a crisp pilsner, but I get really excited about sexy voluptuousness that isn’t overwhelmingly gauche. Two examples:

Photo: Dehesa de Rubiales, Alaia, a blend of 50% prieto picudo, 45% tempranillo, and 5% merlot.

I first tasted this compelling wine at Grape & Bean in Old Town Alexandria. My first impression was I thought it bizarre, with a big mouth feel yet not too much tannin, and smoky notes that finish with fruit. But this little sex kitten and I ended up ignoring all the rest of the wines at the tasting that night. I kept returning to the Alaia over and over, enjoying how it opened up as it warmed and breathed. I bought a bottle and saved it until last week. My husband had given up alcohol for Lent, and I promised him something really fantastic. Now he wants to get a case. We drank it with a steak, but it really should go with a spread of tapas, salty cheeses and hams.

Photo: Chimay Grande Réserve

A friend gave us this bottle of deliciousness. Yes the brand is well known, but I don’t think I had tasted the blue label Chimay before. We drank this with wild pheasant breast poached with apples and a splash of bourbon. The body is not too heavy, with a taste suggestive of fruit, but not too sweet. There’s the hint of earth and yeast on the tongue, something meaty that gives way to tartness. Delicious.

Oooo mami!