Because you don’t already have enough liquid in you.
There are a lot articles out there talking about the challenges of pairing soup with wine. Yes, the last thing you need when you’re working on a nice soup belly is more liquid. Yes, the interplay of broths, bases, and ingredients can leave even a seasoned gourmand stumped.
But you know what? Pairing soup and wine doesn’t have to be so hard. In fact, it’s actually pretty simple if you apply the basic concepts of food and wine pairing. Here at Wine Folly, we talked it over and came up with the soups we’re hot on this season and the wines we’d drink with them. Read on. (But not with an empty stomach.)
Pairing Wine with Soup
Chili Con Carne with Tempranillo
This hearty, spicy Tex-Mex favorite begs for an equally muscular and meaty wine to ride alongside it. That’s why we picked Tempranillo, specifically a Rioja Reserva (or Gran Reserva, if you’re feeling fancy). If you really want to be legit, try a Tempranillo from Texas (a specialty!).
Why? The dusty, leathery Tempranillo wines from Spain offer enough spice and meatiness to work as a congruent pairing with the dish. When served alongside the chili, it will actually make the wine taste a little more fruity (kind of like cherries and figs). There were many great recent vintages in Spain, so you’re pretty safe here, except for the 2012 and 2013 vintages (which were meh).
Chili Wine Pairing Alternative: Bubbles! Believe it or not, a bottle of Brut Cava is surprisingly great. The acidity, effervescence, and bitter backbone mesh with the scant cheddar cheese sprinkled on top (if you do so), and make the whole taste engagement more creamy. It’s like having sour cream, minus the sour cream.
Beef Stew with Carménère
Thick, tender, and familiar, we’re all bound to be Crock-Potting this bad boy at some point this winter. Though it’s popular to combine with full-bodied reds like Cabernet Sauvignon (and rightfully so), we instead want to make the case for Carménère.
Why? Whereas basic Cab can belly up to the hunks of beef and potatoes, medium-bodied Chilean Carménère can add a much needed dimension to this dish, especially if its trademark peppercorn and herbaceous notes are front and center. Of all the recent vintages in Chile, the only one we’re not excited about is the 2016 vintage, so keep that in mind when hunting for wine.
Chicken Tortilla Soup with Grüner Veltliner
What wine has the power to cut through chicken broth, roasted tomatoes, corn, and chiles? Survey says: A less-than-ripe Grüner Veltliner. Notes of lime zest and white pepper, as well as head-turning acidity, make it a shockingly good companion to Mexican soul food. (Supertasters, do brace yourselves before trying at home!)
Got No Grüner? Try Sauvignon Blanc. New Zealand styles bring complimentary passionfruit and jalapeño flavors to the table, while grassy Loire Valley interpretations (Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé) can really highlight garlic and cilantro.
Butternut Squash Soup with Gewürztraminer
So, what’s one supposed to pair with this comforting crowd-pleaser? It’s gotta be Gewürztraminer. While haters are gonna hate on this semi-sweet, aromatic white wine, its notes of cinnamon, ginger, and honey mesh wonderfully with the spice and silky texture of this soup.
On Finding Good Gewürz: While there are plenty of affordable examples in your local supermarket, we recommend springing for a Grand Cru from Alsace, or one from Trentino-Alto Adige of Italy (for more crunchy bitter notes). The quality is unmatched and, even better, the prices are down-to-earth, relatively speaking.
Split Pea & Ham Soup with Riesling
Whether you like it thin or thick as fog, we went with Riesling for this simple, yet satisfying dish. While more and more people are singing the praises of Dry Riesling, we actually recommend more classic, off-dry German Pradikat styles.
Why? The honeycomb and beeswax notes found in these offerings go hand-in-hand with the ham (like a glaze), with the minerality and sweetness being a nice palate cleanser between bites, and heightening an otherwise humble meal.
Indian Red Lentil Soup with Cinsault
While we often recommend white wines or Gamay when pairing with Indian Cuisine, we’re going to get a little wine geeky with this recommendation: Cinsault. Rarely made into a single-varietal wine, Columbia Valley interpretations are fresh, fruity, and even a touch smoky, elevating an already delicious experience to something else entirely. If you can find it, try it. You’ll like what you taste.
That’s too wine geek-y. Recommend better, sir: Juicier, fruit-forward American Grenache will do nicely, too.
Can’t have lentils without that sausage, though.: A gamey, but balanced Spanish Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre) should suffice nicely.
French Onion Soup with Cru Beaujolais
Classic French comfort food deserves a classic pairing: Beaujolais. Not just any Beaujolais, though. It has to be a Cru, preferably one known for producing a lighter style. The Fleurie, Saint-Amour, and Chiroubles AOCs are the first three to come to mind, with just the right flavors (plum, cherry, and peach) to complement the distinct sweet flavor of maillard reaction caused by slow-cooked onions. While some may say it’s too light for something so rustic and brothy, the acidity in this wine should cut right through without an issue!
Fresh out of Cru Beaujolais over here: food-friendly Gamay has got you.
New England Clam Chowder with Muscadet
Lean, green, and at times, downright saline, Muscadet (aka Melon) is a peerless match for a supper of New England Clam Chowder and oyster crackers. The slightly more expensive (but still usually around $20) lees-aged Muscadet has an almost lager-like taste and texture that sounds downright tempting. But you know, an even more basic example will perform quite nicely, even if you’re eating from a soup carton and sipping out of a mason jar.
Italian Wedding Soup with Primitivo
For a soup known for its clear broth, leafy greens, and fennel-tinged sausage, it seems a little crazy to recommend something so big and boozy to step all up in its grill. So why did we pick Primitivo? The Pugliese interpretations tend to be rustic, hearty, with a dollop of earthiness, compared to its Californian cousins. In a sense, it’s the perfect spiritual accompaniment to this unfussy Italian-American favorite.
Pho with Crémant Rosé
Maybe more than anything else on this list, Pho feels impervious to pairing. We’ve had plenty of spicy and savory soup dishes on this list, but few things are more filling than this heaping bowl of this goodness. Does one even want a drop of anything else before or after? Well, we thought about it and if you’re up for it, we think we found the one thing that can cut through this fragrant umami bomb: Crémant Rosé.
The fizzy body, creamy mouthfeel, and notes of cherry and almond easily stand up to intense ranks of star anise, black cardamom, and oxtail aromas. The result? An unexpected, but nevertheless magical match.
Tom Yum with Grenache Blanc
Lemongrass, kaffir limes, galangal. Quick: Are we describing Tom Yum or the flavor profile of Grenache Blanc? It’s hard to pair wines with complex, spicy dishes, but unoaked Grenache Blanc and Tom Yum, is, well, it just feels like destiny. Drink early in life, chill a little bit, then brace yourself because you’re on an express trip to Flavor Town. Population: You.
Pro-Tip: Be on the lookout for the ABV. Grenache Blanc tends to be 13-15% and with a spicy Tom Yum; your mouth is gonna burn, child.
Grenache Blanc too hard to find?: Try an Unoaked Chardonnay or Riesling, for a great alternative.