Pairing a specific wine with food can provide an improved flavor experience; complementary flavors can enhance the flavors of both wine and food. When choosing or preparing dishes to go with a particular wine, or when choosing a wine to go with that special meal, consider the flavors of both the wine and the dish. Flavor bridges are connections between flavors in your dish and flavors in the accompanying wine. Flavor bridges in food can either echo the flavors of the chosen wine, or complement them.

Where Should I Begin?

When you want to take advantage of wine and food characteristics with flavor bridges, think first of the dominant component of the meal. If you want to showcase a special wine, tailor your food to its flavors. If you are trying an exciting new recipe, look for a wine that matches or contrasts its components. Look for fruit or spice notes in your dish, such as chocolate, cherry or citrus. Most wine labels describe the dominant, as well as the more subtle and nuanced, flavors in the wine. These notes can provide a nice starting point for finding flavor bridges when pairing wine with food.

Matched Flavor Bridges

Both white and red wines can contain a wide variety of flavor notes, including fruits and spices. These flavors can be matched with the flavors in your wine for a mirrored or overlapping flavor profile. For example, a red wine with chocolate or coffee notes can be paired with a coffee-rubbed steak. Wines with lighter, fruitier flavors can be paired with chicken or pork dishes with sauces or chutneys containing fruits like apple or pear. However, take care in matching very sweet desserts with sweet wine; even a sweet wine can lose flavor or taste bitter when paired with a rich dessert.

Complementary Flavor Bridges

Flavor bridges can also be used to showcase contrasts between wine and food flavors. For a complementary combination, pair a pasta or chicken dish with a cream sauce to a more acidic white wine, like Sauvignon Blanc. The wine’s acid provides a nice counterpoint to the richness of the dish. Red wines with high concentrations of tannins pair well with fatty meats, as they also tend to cut through this richness. You can pair a sweet wine, like port, with a salty cheese like blue or gorgonzola for a wonderful sweet-savory flavor contrast.