Soup and Sip: Matching Wines with Clam Chowder

What Wine Goes With Clam Chowder?

For some people, having a glass of wine with a bowl of soup freshly poured from a ladle is just a bit too much liquid at one sitting.

This is especially true when the soup or stew is thin since the mouthfeel of a light soup combined with wine isn’t very pleasing for some.

However, there is an exception to this, and that’s when the recipe is for a much thicker, creamier soup that has substance of its own to stand on. And when it comes to hearty soups, perhaps none is a better example of this than clam chowder.

In fact, it’s the richness of clam chowder itself that makes it a perfect complement to certain types of wine that contrast its creamy, milky texture with a light freshness.

The good news is that there are many options to choose from when it comes to choosing the right wine to go with your bowl of clam chowder.

In this article, we’ll break down what works best depending upon the type of clam chowder you’re considering so grab your spoon and wine opener and enjoy! 

Creamy Clam Chowders

Cream-based clam chowders are the most popular variety. The most common are New England clam chowder, which is cream-based, Manhattan Red clam chowder, which is tomato-based, and Long Island clam chowder, which is a blend of cream and tomato.

New England Clam Chowder or Long Island Clam Chowder

Loaded with potatoes, onions and clams in a thick and creamy base, New England clam chowder is practically a meal in each mouthful. Because of this, it’s a good idea to opt for crisper and drier white and red wines to offset the chowder’s richness.

White Wine Pairings

  • Chardonnay – Dry, yet full-bodied this wine can add hints of refreshing notes of fruity acidity and vanilla notes when oak aged.
  • Chenin Blanc – Notes of honey and apple add acidic zip to your meal with this dry white wine. As it ages, Chenin Blanc can also have notes of peach which can help to refresh the palate.
  • Muscadet – This wine is the most acidic of all our recommendations and lacks any noticeable sweetness. Instead, it’s loaded with tart notes of lemon and lime, which makes it not only light in the palate but also crisp and refreshing.

Red Wine Pairings

  • Argentinian Malbec – A fruit-forward yet dry red wine, this leathery selection will cut through the chowder’s creaminess with notes of dark fruit like blackberry, plum and black cherry. It’s also more green at the start than other Malbecs making it a good red wine option.
  • Pinot Noir – Lower in tannins, this medium-bodied wine will add some much needed acidity to your meal. Pinot Noir is well-known for its complex blend of spices like vanilla and dark fruits like cherry and raspberry.

Manhattan Clam Chowder or Long Island Clam Chowder

Although considered by some to not be authentic clam chowder, Manhattan Red still has plenty of fans outside of New York. Chock full of veggies like celery, onions, carrots and clams all in a hearty tomato base. With tomato as the dominant flavor in this dish, it’s best to opt for more acidic whites or drier reds that aren’t high in tannins.

White Wine Pairings

  • Pinot Gris – Complex, spicy and fruity, Pinot Gris is an excellent full-bodied choice to accompany Manhattan clam chowder. Hints of stone, tropical and citrus fruits will freshen up the palate with each sip.
  • Riesling – Known for its high levels of acidity, Reisling pulls together a delightful combination of fresh-picked orchard fruits including apples, pears, nectarines and apricots.
  • Sauvignon Blanc – Beloved worldwide for its crispness and high levels of acidity, this wine will serve as a wonderful complement to your chowder. One property which makes it unique is a chemical known as pyrazine. In wine, it’s responsible for imparting notes of grass, herbs and peppers.

Red Wine Pairings

  • Cabernet Franc – A perfect blend of body and tannins, Cabernet Franc imparts earthy notes of fruit, herbs and hints of pepper. Last, the wine’s acidity is on the medium to high spectrum, which not only makes it refreshing but easy to drink.

Clear Clam Chowders

Rhode Island Clam Chowder

Rhode Island clam chowder features a clear broth as opposed to a cream or tomato-based one. In terms of consistency it’s much thinner and closer to a bouillabaisse than a thick chowder. Because it’s lighter, it pairs well with white wines.

White Wine Pairings

  • Pinot Grigio – Known for its blend on mineral and saline acidity, this wine will work well with the lighter base of Rhode Island clam chowder. Multiple fruit notes including lemon, lime, apple and nectarine are present along with a slightly honeyed finish.
  • Pinot Blanc – Notes of mineral and smoke underlie fruity hints of citrus and pear in Pinot Blanc. In addition, it’s low in tannins, making it both refreshing and easy to enjoy.
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