The following is a guest post by our friends at Wine Turtle. Learn more here.
Phở is a popular soup at noodle shops, Vietnamese restaurants, and on the street in Vietnam and throughout the rest of the world – as well as a wintertime staple for me. While there are a few different varieties, the basic anatomy of phở is: beef broth, rice noodles similar to linguine, herbs (cilantro, Thai basil and green onions), meat and a lime-wedge garnish. While there are many recipes for phở, the beef broth’s complex melange of spices and flavors makes it a tricky pairing for wine – but an absolutely superb one when you get it right.
Start by following the old rule of white with chicken, red with beef. From there, let the flavor of the broth be your guide. Here’s what I like with my phở:
- Pair chicken phở with a cool-climate Sauvignon Blanc The variety’s blend of fresh fruit flavors and acid balance make the earthier, savory notes of the phở sing while also sharpening the saltiness. Any New World, cool-climate Sauvignon Blanc will work (look for options from Washington State, Oregon, New Zealand and South Africa).
- Pair beef phở with Merlot Lighter-bodied Merlot can handle the complexity of phở without overwhelming your palate.
- The foolproof pairing for phở of any kind is rosé
Dry rosé, sparkling or still, pairs with beef, chicken or tofu, so it’s the perfect option for phở when eating out in a group. Rosé has the perfect zip to complement the salty, sweet, earthy blend found in your bowl.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with throwing out the pairing rules entirely. Have a red with chicken – why not? You’ll have a better phở-pairing experience, though, if you keep three things in mind: low tannins, light bodied, dry. That means no Lambrusco, no Syrah. The absolute best option is Pinot Noir. As a light, low-tannin, dry wine, it’s a great choice with any kind of phở – meat, vegetarian, chicken, tofu, you name it. Old World or New, it’s up to you.
Failing all that, here are a few more general guidelines I follow for finding a wine to go with that steaming bowl of delicious phở:
- Whites are easier to pair
Tannins and phở simply don’t mix.
- Red or white, the wine should be dry
Phở is complex, but lacks sweetness. The more sugar in the wine, the more offputting the pairing will be.
- If you’re thinking bubbles, Champagne and sparkling rosé are your best bets
Avoid Lambrusco, as its sweetness will spoil the experience.
- Opt for younger wines
Whites with so-called “green” flavors like bell pepper and grass are always a great option.
- No oak Any wine that is buttery or shows vanillin from oak aging, does not taste good with phở, that simple.
While many people drink nothing, water, iced tea or beer with their phở, it’s time that wine got a fair look at its phở-pairing potential.
What are your favorite pairings – Asian cuisine or otherwise? Tell us in the comments below, as we love hearing what others are drinking and discovering!