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Alto M.P.H.S.

Recipe & Pairings

As with food, fermentation tends to release more umami flavours in full bodied, well-aged wineslike the Alto M.P.H.S. The Intensity of flavour in this rich wine is well matched with umami rich foods like white truffle oil and dried shitake mushrooms. Although fish and red wine are not often paired, the addition of a few dried umami rich anchovies or mackerel fillets to sauces, elevates the umami flavours in this wine. Other sources of umami like tomato paste should be used sparingly as the acidity counteracts the bold flavours in the wine. High tannins in a red wine can overpower the umami flavours in food but because many of the umami rich foods like anchovies, parmesan and soya are also quite salty, they tend to soften the tannins in the wine.

Umami in food

Umami (pronounced oo MAH me) is the word that describes the 5thtaste that we can sense; the other four being sweet, sour, salty and bitter. The literal translation of the Japanese terms means “pleasant and savoury taste”.Scientifically, umami is the result of the release of flavour compounds called glutamines.In this case we are looking for natural sources of glutamines and not the chemically manufactured monosodium glutamate often found in processed foods. Natural sourcesof umami are found in foods like aged parmesan, dried wild mushrooms like shitake or porciniand off course the mother of all umami flavours -white truffles!Fermentation and aging also releases umami flavours in food as in miso-paste and soya sauce. The main effect of umami, and therefore also the reason for use in cooking, is as a flavour enhancer. Think of grating a little fresh parmesan over pasta or adding soya sauce to a broth. Chargrilled, well-aged, fatty meat like a picana steak are also a good source of umami especially served with a reduced jus made of bone broth.


Spices: Although spices are not true transporters of umami flavour, a savoury spice like nutmeg accentuates umami flavours already present in foods such as mushrooms.

Cheese: Aged Parmesan is full of umami flavours and pairs perfectly with Alto M.P.H.S. The saltiness in the cheese brings the ripe, berry fruit in the wine to the fore and you can also detect the matching nuttiness of the wine and the well-aged parmesan.

Smoked and Dried Fish

Mushrooms:Mushrooms are naturally high in glutamines, which is enhanced even further when dried. White Truffles also resorts under the fungi family of mushrooms and are the most pungent carriers of umami flavours. A small drop of white truffle oil will go far in elevating the umami flavour in dishes. Alto M.P.H.S absolutely adores the umami punch of mushrooms and white truffles!

Umami Paste

Makes 250 ml   |  Time 15 min

Use this Umami paste to add flavour punch when cooking sauce like a thick bolognaise sauce. Or just add it to soups and broths for an immediate flavour enhancement.

6 anchovy fillets

3 tbsp (45 ml) soya sauce

3 tbsp (45 ml) tomato paste

½ cup (125 ml) grated parmesan

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

½ cup (125 ml) olive oil

3 tbsp (45 ml) dried porcini mushroom, ground to a powder

3 tbsp (45 ml) dried shitake mushroom, ground to a powder

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and process until a smoothpaste forms. Take out of the food processor and store in an airtight container in a fridge.

Creamy Parmesan Polenta with pan fried Exotic Mushrooms and White Truffle Oil

Serves 4   |  Time 1 hour

Aged parmesan, mushrooms and white truffle oil are all pungent sources of umami and the Alto M.P.H.S. pairs exceptionally well with all of them.

1 L milk

250 ml cream

120 g polenta

10 ml salt

250 ml grated parmesan

100 g butter

250 g pancetta cubes

15 ml) olive oil

30 ml butter

250 g exotic mushrooms

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

5 ml white truffle oil, buy it at Woolworths or a speciality deli

  1. Combine the milk and cream in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add the polenta slowly in a thin stream while whisking constantly. Reduce the heat and cover with a lid (be careful the polenta spatters).
  2. Cook the polenta for +- 30 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent it from burning.
  3. Stir in the cheese and butter and stir until melted and smooth.
  4. Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan over high heat. Panfry the pancetta until golden and crispy. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  5. In the same pan. Fry the garlic and mushrooms for +- 3-4 min. take out of the pan and serve on the creamy polenta. Drizzle the truffle oil over. Serve immediately.