“Bridge” Your Way to Great Pairings

3 May

One of my favorite ways to pair wine and food is to use “bridge” ingredients to tie the food to the wine. Using a “bridge” is especially effective when the bottle of wine you plan to drink and food you plan to eat are not good natural pairings. Suppose, for instance, that you’re in the mood for a nice bold cabernet sauvignon, but you’re having chicken. If the chicken is just sautéed or baked plain, it won’t stand up to the cab and the cab may taste overly tannic without the fat of a steak or other fatty meat. Adding “bridge” ingredients, such as roasted peppers with balsamic vinegar (see picture) can turn a poor pairing into a good pairing. Toasted nuts, rosemary, sage and thyme are other good “bridge” ingredients for cabernet sauvignon.

Food and Wine Pairings

Another classic example is the addition of goat cheese to a salad for pairing with a sauvignon blanc (or other crisp white wine). For oaky wines, especially oaky chardonnays, try brown rice, caramel or sesame oil as bridges. Another approach, assuming you know the wine, is to think of ingredients that match some of the characteristics of the wine. For instance, include blackberries with a wine that has “notes of blackberry on the palate”. Another way to improve a pairing is to use a little of the wine in the food… that would be “self-bridging”.

The table shows a short list of bridge ingredients for four of the main grape varieties. Stop in at Pairings for a more complete list, free for the asking. Of course literally hundreds of thousands of ingredients can be used for “bridges”, and just like choosing wines or foods, good choices will vary with the person.

Sauvignon Blanc Chardonnay Pinot Noir Cabernet Sauvignon
Bell Peppers, citrus, fennel, garlic, capers, olives, tomatoes Apples, avocado, bacon, butter, Dijon mustard, tropical fruit Mushrooms, beets, dried fruits, truffles, pomegranates, Balsamic vinegar, black olives, roasted red pepper, currants

The best way to learn which bridge ingredients work for you is experience. Two of the foods in our upcoming Grand Pairing on May 7 exhibit the bridge ingredient principle. One is an egg quiche with ham and emmenthaler cheese. While eggs alone do not pair well with many wines, adding the ham and emmenthaler to the quiche transforms it into a good pairing with rosés,  or example. Another example is muhammara, a spicy red pepper dip from Syria. The spiciness alone would not be a good pairing with a pinot noir (or other smooth red), but the addition of pomegranate molasses adds a flavor that mirrors the wine. Stop in at the Grand Pairing and see for yourself.


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