A few years back, Casey Johnson, a former student of mine, imagined – in one of her branding projects for Loco wine – that it took a powerful wine to stand up to the power of a big, marbelized slab of beef. Back then I didn’t really understand how correct she was.
Some wines are beasts out of the bottle, but foods like charred beef calls for a beast of a wine. The steak fat coats the palate, demanding both high alcohol to match the body and plenty of acidity from the wine to cut through the fat and refresh the palate.
Tannins become our friend, their drying stickiness scrubs our palate and adds a texture that won’t run and hide. Seemingly over-zealous amounts of spice notes, such as black pepper and green mint, that made us wrinkle our mouths at the first sip suddenly effortlessly blend into the pairing.
My most recent reminder of this dynamic involved a 2012 Darioush Cab that I enjoyed with a thick slab of Delmonico. Out of the bottle the Cab was a hot mess. Too tannic. Too much alcohol. Too much spice. But after 15 minutes of air and a bite of beef, its qualities became assets, not liabilities.