By Bill St. John, Special to Tribune Newspapers
October 17, 2012
For centuries, to form clothing or shoes, tanners softened raw animal hide by applying extremely astringent tannin (found most commonly in the bark of the tanoak tree). Tannin binds to animals' natural collagen proteins and softens hides.
In exactly a reverse way, animal proteins and fats (and some vegetable fats) bind to tannin in red wine, mollify the tannin's astringency and, as it's put, "soften the wine." Likewise, wine tannin makes the fats appear less fatty or oily on the palate. To pair fat and tannin to the best effect, match the level of tannin in the red wine with the level of fat in the dish.
The food: Open-face mushroom burgers
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add 8 ounces sliced cremini mushrooms; cook, stirring often, until starting to brown, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to a simmer; stir in 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard. Cook, 5 minutes. Meanwhile, mix 1 pound ground beef round with 1/2cup half-and-half and 1 teaspoon salt; form into 4 burgers. Grill or broil to desired doneness, placing 1 slice cheddar on each burger near end of cooking. Place each burger on a slice of pumpernickel bread. Top with mushrooms; sprinkle with chopped parsley. Makes: 4 servings
2008 Bodegas Casa Primicia "M," Rioja, Spain: The "M" is for the grape mazuelo, rarely seen all by itself in red Rioja; supercharged dark red fruit flavors and aromas; chalky tannin, tangy acidity. $21
2008 Cadaretta Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington: Has the black heart of a Northwest red, with gorgeous, plush texture, round-the-mouth tannin and never-ending finish; worth every penny and then some. $40
2009 Tenimenti Angelini Rosso di Montalcino "Val di Suga," Tuscany, Italy: From a premier Brunello producer, so top pedigree; cleansing tannin underneath dark cherry fruit; quiet wood. $21
— Bill St. John, special to Tribune Newspapers