Food & Wine Pros | Using 'bridge' ingredients to create a perfect match

Food & Wine Pros

Using 'bridge' ingredients to create a perfect match

One of the most useful tricks to master, especially when you’re dealing with a tricky-to-match ingredient, is to introduce a ‘bridge’ ingredient - in other words an element in the dish that makes it easier to pair with the wine you want to drink. It can be something as simple as cream or mashed potato or something rather more specific that picks out a flavour in the wine you’re serving.

Cheese is the most obvious example. Some cheeses such as blue or washed rind cheeses are tough on wine but if you bring some other ingredients to the party (rather than other cheeses which will make the job even more difficult) the task becomes easier.

  • Add a slice of walnut bread and a handful of dried fruits such as apricots, figs or raisins to a piece of Stilton, for example and it will be easier to match with an aged red like a Rioja. Or serve a bright cherry compote with a young sheep's cheese as they do in the south-west of France and you’ll be able to pair it with a more full-bodied red than you would if you served the cheese alone.
  • With chocolate too it can help to have a red fruit accompaniment if you want to serve a strong sweet red wine such as port (but not if you wanted to serve a full bodied dry red like a Cabernet where the added fruit would knock out the fruit in your wine, leaving you with a very tannic accompaniment. Your wine needs to be sweeter and more intense in flavour than the element you introduce)
  • Pork or game like pheasant served with a light jus and apple sauce will immediately be easier to match with a fruity white like a Riesling or a young Chenin Blanc than if you serve it with a rich, wine based sauce which would lead you more towards a red.
  • A rich potato gratin like a gratin dauphinoise served with your roast lamb or beef will soften the tannins of a young, angular Cabernet. (Cheese can act as a bridging ingredient too, for instance in salads where it can counteract the sharpness in a dressing and make it more wine-friendly.)

How do you know which ingredient to introduce? Well, just as you know what vegetables or other accompaniments to serve with your base ingredient - it comes with experience. If you’re a practised cook you’ll find it easy. If you’re less experienced this site is here to help you but don't hesitate to drop me a line at fiona AT matchingfoodandwine DOT com if you've got a specific query.

See also How cream can help a fine wine match

Photo © Polina Ponomareva at

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