Pairing Off: Campbell's Tomato Soup

Matching wine to tomato soup wouldn't seem all that difficult. Fine dining restaurants routinely piece together bisques and fresh purees, after all--and their sommeliers can generally cope.

But in this column we don't bother to make fresh, upscale, herb infused soups. That would require buying tomatoes, basil...far too much trouble, to start with, and quite expensive, considering how quickly real ingredients begin to rot.

A few decades ago Andy Warhol made his name celebrating on canvas the fact that most Americans succumb to convenience. This column, however, has always contended that wine goes with just about everything--from fast foods like McDonald's to the stuff you find on grocery shelves.

Of course, Campbell's poses at least one key problem when it comes to pairing.

Real, homemade tomato soup is sort of an art form, layering the natural acidity of fruit over herbs and other ingredients. The end result lends itself to several wine options. But with Campbell's, warns the wine guy at Goody Goody in Addison, "you need something to overpower the additives--and still have an answer for the acidity of tomato."

Interesting problem.

The canned soup presents a syrupy, molassas quality--without the bitter backlash and without the bright, tart tomato flavor. There's also a little mineral zing, presumably from aluminum.

So the Goody Goody guy recommends a Pinot Noir from Argentina or Chile. "They don't have the funk that some California Pinots have," he explains.

And thus I ended up with a $10 Santa Helena Pinot Noir from Chile's Central Valley, a wine promising fresh cherries and light pepper with a trace of cured red meat on the nose. When sipped, you find that the juice dominates, leaving a spicy afterburn. Yet it's a smooth wine.

It is also just balanced enough to contend with Campbell's soup, to soothe all that syrupy sweetness. The pairing warms--matures--the juicy, fruit-forward wine, bringing out a meatiness in the soup and layering in some pepper. While it's not remarkable to start (meaning a low priced wine and mass produced soup), the combination works nicely.

It's good enough that I wouldn't search any further.


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Dave Faries
Contact: Dave Faries