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Wine Lover Geeking Out: Pairing Soup and Wine

Finally, the snow was coming. Cold weather can be perfectly paired with the soup. So this was an easy equation to solve – snow means soup.

New England Clam Chowder is one of my all-time favorite soups. I’m generally happy with restaurant versions, but I have a recipe that is much lighter than a typical restaurant version, as it uses half and half instead of heavy cream. One day I might be able to share that recipe, but as this is not my recipe, I would need first to get permission. I can tell you that the main ingredients there are bacon, potatoes, celery, and good quality clams (so far I find that ocean clams are the best). And half and half as I mentioned before.

In the morning, I realized that I’m not sure what wine I should pair with this soup, and I decided to ask the wine folks on the twitter for a recommendation. This turned out into a fun conversation. Here are the recommendations I received (I will try not to miss any, but I can’t guarantee):

  • lightly oaked, moderate-climate Chardonnay
  • Austrian Gruner
  • Siegerrebe, Pinot Blanc, and Chenin Blanc (from South Africa or Loire)
  • Riesling or Pinot Blanc / Gris from Alsace
  • Brut Sparkling
  • Viognier (I missed this recommendation when it was originally sent)
  • Ribolla Gialla, perhaps even a skin-contact (e.g. Gravner)
  • Godello
  • Manzanilla

Not a bad list, isn’t it?

My goal was to use what I have on hand and not to go to the store. This eliminated Austrian Gruner, Siegerrebe (had to use Google to learn about this obscure grape), Pinot Blanc, anything from Alsace, Ribolla Gialla, and especially Ribolla Gialla with skin contact (I wish I had a bottle of Gravner), Viognier, Godello, and Manzanilla. So the only 2 options I had from this list were lightly oaked Chardonnay and sparkling Brut. After careful consideration, I realized that I probably don’t have lightly oaked Chardonnay on hand either. And I didn’t feel like opening Champagne – besides, Champagne perfectly pairs with everything anyway, so this would not be a fun exercise anyway.

Then I realized that I have a few samples of Portuguese wines, as well as a few Sherries – this was enough to experiment, which is exactly what I did.

These are the wines I tried with the soup:

2020 Esporão Branco Colheita Alentejo (Antão Vaz, Viosinho, Alvarinho, 4 months on the lees) – didn’t work. Creamy and round wine clashed with the soup.
2020 Esporão Branco Reserva Alentejo (Antão Vaz, Arinto, Roupeiro, six months in stainless steel tanks and in new American and French oak barrels) – it worked! The pairing was complementary, probably because the wine had a good amount of clean acidity, and so it was the most food-friendly by definition.
2018 Esporão Tinto Colheita Alentejo (Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional, Aragonez, Cabernet Sauvignon, Touriga Franca, 6 months in concrete tanks) -trying this wine with the soup was a mistake – can I leave it at that?
Gonzalez Byass Alfonso Oloroso – I had big expectations for this pairing, and it didn’t work. The combination was not bad – the wine and the soup simply stayed in their own worlds without impacting each other.
González Byass Solera 1847 Cream Dulce – big mistake. That sweetness of the wine just didn’t go well with the soup.

Here is my report on this simple experiment. I might try a few more combinations tomorrow and will update the post if I will encounter something exciting.

What would you pair a clam chowder with? What do you think of pairing soup and wine in general – does that even makes sense?

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