By Bill St. John, Special to Tribune Newspapers
December 26, 2012
One very simple, fail-safe wine and food pairing is a tannic red wine and seared steer. The normally astringent, even bitter tannins of many red wines are quickly mollified by both the blood protein and the fat of red meat (especially when it is not overcooked).
Likewise, the richness of the meat, especially some sorts such as lamb or duck, is tamed or "cut" by those same tannins. But step carefully into this pairing when the preparation is salty, as this recipe certainly is (cured olives, anchovy, added salt). Salt makes abundant tannin even more astringent, so choose less tannic, smoother reds.
The food: Pan-seared steaks with tapenade
Mix together in a small bowl 5 oil-cured black olives, pitted, chopped; 1 anchovy fillet, rinsed, minced; 1/2 stick softened butter; 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves; 1 teaspoon brandy; 1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest; and freshly ground pepper. Heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season 4 small rib-eye or strip steaks with salt and pepper. Sear steaks on both sides. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook steaks to desired doneness. Rest steaks, 5 minutes. Serve, topping each with 1 tablespoon tapenade. Yield: 4 servings
2009 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley: Remarkable on many levels for wafts of gorgeous dark fruit perfume; silky, nuzzling tannins; profound but juicy extraction; and a terrifically lengthy, even haunting, finish. $45-$50
2009 Matchbook Tempranillo, Dunnigan Hills, California: Super buy in concentrated but lively, even buoyant, aroma and dark red fruit; moderately tannic and cleansing; good acidity for a red. $15
2010 Jeff Runquist Barbera R, Amador County, California: Terrific American version of this Italian grape, with the Italian's strengths: super-refreshing acidity; round-the-mouth, chalky tannins; and gobs of black-red fruit. $25
— Bill St. John, special to Tribune Newspapers