When a soup that’s made from a humble mollusk is given a day of recognition, it must be the absolute dead of winter. Sandwiched between bank/postal holidays named for Martin Luther King, Jr. and George Washington is – cue the crickets, please – National New England Clam Chowder Day.
Before returning to a state of hibernation (or recovering from a slap to one’s forehead), be open to the wine pairing possibilities offered by this culinary creation from Boston. This is a most hearty and satisfying soup – and its texture and flavors present great opportunities to branch out within the spectrum of white wines.
Besides, the denizens of Boston and New England are certainly sipping more than just their namesake chowder to drown their sorrows. After all, the Patriots might have been the biggest of chowder-heads, losing to the New York Jets. Yes, the J-E-T-S, whose home city is also known for the immersion of unsuspecting clams in a tomato-based broth.
To save the New England delicacy from further insult (either via kitchen or gridiron), whip up a batch of the creamy stuff and find some delicious value wines. However, one mustn’t go too acidic (Sauvignon Blanc) or buttery (California Chardonnay). Finding the middle ground is hardly impossible, though.
“For New England Clam Chowder, I would lean in the direction of something dry, but with perceptible fruitiness, reminding one of peach/golden delicious apples, with hints of citrus – and no obvious oak influence,” says Chicago-based CWE/CSW Don Clemens. “A [higher-end] Premier Cru Chablis from France leaps to mind. Otherwise, I might look to the Loire Valley and a crisp Sancerre, and another French candidate would be a white Rhône.”
Here are a few options Chicago Budget Wine Examiner found at metro Chicago stores that would probably fit these pairing parameters:
JM Reverdy Domaine de la Villaudiere Sancerre 2009: A couple bucks more than the typical CBWE ceiling, but this Sancerre is delicious. It has a really nice floral aroma, along with a trace of lime. The balanced acidity and flavor of tart apple would cut through the potatoes and complement any herbs used to flavor the soup. $17.
E. Guigal Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc 2009: Following the above recommendations, a white Rhône is quite complementary to New England Clam Chowder. And this one doesn’t disappoint – either alongside the comforting soup or at the cash register. It’s a fairly well-rounded wine, with nice stone fruit. Acids are moderate. Good value: $12.
Vinjuli Friulano: Venturing eastward to Italy’s Friuli region, one finds the grape formerly known as Tocai Friulano. It’s dry, but with a wonderful aroma of green melon. “Friulano has a little more mid-palate richness than many white wines,” says Dean Schlabowske of Cellar Rat in Wicker Park. Good to know; some chowder-heads can get a bit overzealous with their thickeners. Great conversation piece: $13.