Warm soup better with the right wine

Posted: November 8, 2017 at 1:46 a.m.

With the weather finally in line with cravings for hearty soups and stews, it's a good time for some pairing tests.

Soup with wine can be a notoriously difficult match. The challenge lies not in flavor, but texture. Both are liquids (for the most part, anyway) and, for many, there is conflicting appeal, or lack thereof, in eating a liquid and drinking a liquid at the same time.

But that's not to say there aren't good matches out there.

First, consider the texture and ingredients of the soup. Is it velvety smooth? Are there tender bits of vegetables suspended in clear broth? Or is it a hearty, rib-sticking stew with large chunks of beef and potatoes? Next, consider the main ingredient much like you would when you pair pasta or rice dishes.

While not a first thought for many, sherry is almost always the best and safest pairing with any soup. It's a "go to" wine that will match into a wide range of soups. Dry Fino Sherry works beautifully with more delicate flavored soups and a dry amontillado or oloroso goes well for those with bolder or more earthy flavors.

With cream based soups, a medium- to high-acid wine adds welcomed freshness. It's almost like a squeeze of lemon for a touch of flavor. Consider chablis, unoaked chardonnay, albarino or sauvignon blanc.

Very thin soups bring the liquid-upon-liquid debate into play, begging the wine to be a supporting cast member rather than the star. Consider dry amontillado sherry, dry madeira, gruner veltliner or dry German riesling.

Protein based soups containing meat, fish and beans are the most versatile and the pairing guidelines become broader. Remember to keep in mind the texture of the soup, but this is a soup where the spices and other ingredients can be your guide. Consider tempranillo with chile pepper, carmenere with beef stew, muscadet with clam chowder.

Unlike many dishes that always have a safe pairing option, soups are all about exploration. Use your dining experience -- whether at home or out at a restaurant -- as a palate-testing lab. And don't forget to take note when you find the perfect match.

THE VALUES

2015 Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling, Washington (about $12 retail)

2016 Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand (about $14 retail)

THE SPLURGES

2015 Sandeman Don Fino Sherry, Spain (about $19 retail)

2015 Christian Moreau Chablis, France (about $33 retail)

Lorri Hambuchen is a member of London's Institute of Wines and Spirits. Contact her at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, Ark. 72203, or email:

uncorked@thewinecenter.com

Food on 11/08/2017