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Odd Pair: Wine and Soup

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Whether we're making Tuscan ribollita, Mexican tortilla soup, or French soupe à l'oignon, wine is always a key ingredient at our house (where there's always a spare cup of wine in the kitchen). And while the sugar is the main component of the wine that adds flavor to a soup, the right wine can give the dish the elusive je ne sais quoi: A bright, citrus-driven Moschofilero from Greece can impart that zing I'm looking for in my chicken stock; a dry Riesling from Austria can give my beef consommé a dash of minerality.

Now that winter has arrived in Texas, we're making more and more soups (Tracie P's Neapolitan cannellini and escarole, "beans and greens," as she calls it, is a favorite these days).

But with wintry soup also comes the age-old conundrum: What to pair with piping-hot soup?

Soup is the ultimate "impossible pairing," as Dr. Vino calls it: The service temperature alone overwhelms the aroma and flavors of wine. And its intense flavor -- often spice-driven and amplified by its temperature -- subvert the nuance of fine wine.

The bottom line? In any given menu, reserve the best wines in the flight to serve after the soup course. And reach for approachable aromatic white grapes -- think Sauvignon Blanc, Melon de Bourgogne (Muscadet), Gewürztraminer, Malvasia, and Tocai Friulano. Their flavor profiles will work well with the vibrant tones of hot soup. My personal favorite is Savagnin from Jura, where the oxidative, dry, understated style of the wines works well with the explosion of flavor in soup.

Take inspiration from ingredients traditionally used in the soup. In other words, look for flavor profiles that already work well together. If lemon juice is an ingredient in the soup, reach for wines with citrus flavor. If tomatoes are an ingredient, think bright acidity, perhaps with some residual sugar, like Mosel Riesling. If mushrooms are a component, think earthy red, like Cabernet Franc from Loire or Negroamaro from Apulia.

What soups are you making these days? And what are you pairing with them? Please share your suggestions in the comment section.


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