TUESDAY, Oct. 9, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists say they've answered the age-old question of why that glass of Cabernet or Merlot goes so well with your steak: something called "mouth feel."
In essence, the "rough" astringent taste of wine is a perfect complement to the "slippery," fatty flavor of meat, balancing each other out, say a team reporting in the Oct. 9 issue of Current Biology.
The findings help explain why people like to pair astringent (sour or bitter) items with fatty choices, such as certain types of wine and steak, ginger with sushi, and soda with burgers and fries. Salad dressings, with their typical oils and acidic tastes, may also complement the greens they are added to.
For example, the researchers found that weakly astringent brews containing grape seed extract, a green tea ingredient and aluminum sulfate countered the slippery sensation that comes from fat in meat.
"The mouth is a magnificently sensitive [sensory] organ, arguably the most sensitive in the body," study co-author Paul Breslin of Rutgers University and the Monell Chemical Senses Center, said in a journal news release. And that means that "the way foods make our mouths feel has a great deal to do with what foods we choose to eat," he said.
"The opposition between fatty and astringent sensations allows us to eat fatty foods more easily if we also ingest astringents with them," Breslin said.
These findings suggest that humans naturally combine opposite tastes in meals in order have a balance in our mouths -- something which may have benefits in terms of maintaining a diverse diet, the researchers said.
The U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has more about taste and taste disorders.