Try matching wine to soup

As the weather cools down, our eating habits tend to change. We want more heart-warming dishes as opposed to cooler ones. At the top of the list has to be soup, one of my faves. Matching wine to soup isn’t usually what most folks think of doing especially because most soup is hot. However, wine and soup can be a marriage made in heaven.

One main thing to note about matching wine to soup – it makes a huge difference if the soup contains a healthy portion of solid food like meat, fish, vegetables, beans, pasta or rice, making it more of a stew rather than just a liquid. This way there are other components for the wine to play off of.

The rules for matching wine to soup are not that much different than those for matching it to other food. Always match the characters – a lighter wine with a lighter soup and a heavier one with a richer concoction! Be sure to match the wine to the most dominant flavour in the soup. If lemon or garlic is the most aggressive component, then match the wine to that.

Remember too that seasonings and spices can take the soup’s flavour in a totally different direction, requiring a different wine match. For example, if curry is your main flavouring ingredient, then choose a wine that plays that. A little secret to ensure the match works well is to add a little of the wine you are going to sip with the soup during its preparation. This way the flavour is simultaneously in the broth and the glass. Mucho simpatico!

As for serving temperatures, it’s a bit tricky. A chilled wine with a hot soup may make those of you with sensitive teeth wince with pain. Serve whites at cellar temperature or very slightly chilled and reds at room temperature.

Stylistically, for big hearty soups that eat like a meal or stew, I find the best choices are young, fruity, crisp, robust reds like Gamay. Avoid overly tannic selections as this combats the “stewed” flavors. Any meat cooked in a soup is tender and soft and won’t require any tannin to tame it. I’d also avoid wines with a lot of oak as this will weigh the dish down and mask complex flavours in the soup.

Tomato-based soups contain lots of acid (sour component) so you’ll want to select wines with good acidity like Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Muscadet.

Meat soups really eat like a meal. For beef, try Gamay from any cool viticultural area, or Beaujolais. Chicken soup wows with a Sylvaner from Alsace. If you prefer a gamey version, then check out a sweeter wine like a medium-sweet Riesling or Port. Turtle soup lovers will enjoy a Sercial or Verdelho Madeira with it. For mulligatawny, try a Gewürztraminer from anywhere. For simple consommé, go with a Fino or Amontillado sherry.

I simply adore fish soup and really dig a dry rosé with bouillabaisse. Lobster bisque is a real treat with any Chardonnay. Gotta love a wood-aged Sauvignon Blanc like Fumé Blanc or Pouilly-Fumé with clam or seafood chowder, and shrimp bisque aficionados will be pleased with an Australian Sémillon or Chardonnay as a match.

Vegetarian soups containing veggies, beans, pasta or rice are wonderful as well. Valpolicella from Italy is divine with beans or pasta. Try a medium-dry Riesling from anywhere with creamy vegetable soup. One of my all time favourites is minnestrone and any Sangiovese-based red (Chianti, Vino Nobile, Brunello) plays it nicely. Onion soup, especially the French version, is to die for with any Gamay or Beaujolais. Bardolino from Italy sings with tomato soup, Pinot Noir dances with borscht and a dry Muscat is the cat’s meow with vichyssoise.

Cold soups also work with wine. The best choice would be a dry, fortified wine like white Port, Madeira or Sherry. If the soup is fruit-based, then a slightly chilled medium-dry Riesling works wonders.

Edward Finstein is a wine writer, award-winning author, TV and radio host, educator, judge

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