Sometimes in these dark days and nights when rain is battering the windows, nothing hits the spot more than a piping-hot bowl of soup. While wineries and wine writers are often overly ambitious with pairing suggestions (guilty!), most of us aren’t whipping up a beef Wellington with a truffle-chanterelle sauce to go with our $15 Merlot on an idle Tuesday night.
But soup! We can do soup, right? Whether from a can, your favourite takeout joint, or an attempt at a new recipe from one of the season’s hottest cookbooks, a humble bowl of soup can be so much more enjoyable with the right wine alongside.
Orofino Celentano Vineyard Gamay 2017
Similkameen Valley, B.C.; $25, orofinovineyards.com
I’m absolutely smitten with John and Virginia Weber’s brilliant ode to the charming reds of France’s Beaujolais region. After fermenting on the skins, the Gamay was pressed off and then spent five months in older French oak barrels, which brings a structure that frames the fruit well without interfering flavourwise. It’s unfined and unfiltered, leaving a slight haze, which just adds more character. Best served with a bit of a chill and a smoky, gooey French onion soup; Italian plums, mulberries, cardamom, and a sprig or two of fresh sage are all woven together perfectly.
Catena San Carlos Cabernet Franc 2017
Mendoza, Argentina; $28 to $32, private wine stores
If a tomato-driven soup is what’s in order, then let’s stay with zesty red fruit by heading down to Argentina, up in the Andes mountains, where we find the San Carlos vineyard sitting pretty at more than 1,000 metres above sea level. Steeped in alluvial soils, the vines produce bright, expressive fruit with fresh acidity. The wine is loaded with red currants and raspberries, then finished with a good dusting of thyme and rosemary. Twelve months in French oak barrels provides a sturdy pedestal to stand upon. If you’re the type who can’t imagine a tomato soup without a grilled cheese sandwich in hand for dippin’, this wine will also cut through that cheesy richness, so by all means go for it. Recently spotted at Marquis Wine Cellars.
Finca Las Moras “Paz” Malbec 2016
San Juan Cuyo, Argentina; $17.99, B.C. Liquor Stores
Let’s stick around Argentina, where a hearty beef stew will become fast friends with this opulent Malbec full of purple berry fruit, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The wine spent 15 months in new oak, which bolsters its profile, adding to extra grip on the palate, where we see cedar and mocha notes peeking through all that fruit. There’s a warmth and just a tiny bit of affable sweetness on the finish. After polishing off your dinner, this is a great wine to get cozy with on the couch; if you have a fireplace at your disposal, do stoke it up.
Luccarelli Negroamaro 2016
Puglia, Italy; $13.99, B.C. Liquor Stores
The Negroamaro variety is native to Puglia, the heel of Italy, where it makes wines rich with stewed berry fruit, black licorice, Italian plums, and slightly savoury elements of black olive. This one is a tad sweet on the finish, but a good undercurrent of acid keeps it from being too heavy or cloying. If you like to keep a spicy beat with Korean beef stew or a Mexican tortilla soup with a good kick to it, the sweetness of the wine will handle that heat well. Also, at $14 per bottle, the value here is impressive.
Burrowing Owl Estate Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2017
Similkameen Valley, B.C.
We’re mixing things up a little bit now, with a herbal, citrusy, zippy white. Although most Burrowing Owl bottlings come from south Okanagan fruit, this Sauvignon Blanc comes from the Similkameen Valley: the sunny, windswept region just a pinch west. Forty percent of the wine was fermented and aged in stainless-steel tanks to preserve freshness, while the rest was done in oak barrels, providing roundness and a hint of toasty character on the palate. Pink grapefruit, lime, and fresh tarragon steal the show here, with cracking minerality and fresh acid keeping things bright.
I recently tried this wine and fell pretty hard for it. My heart plummeted upon learning it’s pretty much sold-out at the retail level and we won’t see the 2018 version until the spring. I was able to pick up the pieces, though, once I found out wine director William Mulholland is pouring it by the glass at Yaletown’s Blue Water Cafe. I can’t help but think that sitting up at the bar for a glass of the stuff while tucking into chef Frank Pabst’s carrot soup with tamarind crumble, duck prosciutto, Marcona almonds, and citrus crème fraîche is a perfect respite from a hectic day.