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Matchmaker: Cauliflower Soup and Grüner Veltliner

This duet of subtle flavors plays in perfect attunement

Nick Fauchald
Posted: March 8, 2005

Austria's best export since Mozart, Grüner Veltliner is a sommelier's wild card, as it's managed to slip under the average diner's radar despite being one of the most food-friendly wines, which makes it that much more exotic and, more often than not, affordable.

This simple soup, built around cauliflower's nutty flavor and musky undertones, could be overwhelmed by many whites, but it retains its harmony when teamed with the vegetable-loving Grüner, which accompanies the dish like a reserved cellist.

Wine Pairing

Thanks to its crisp acidity and complex flavor profile, Grüner Veltliner is amenable to many of the same foods you'd pair with Sauvignon Blanc, including fish and shellfish, vegetables, herb sauces, vinaigrettes and goat cheese. Think of Grüner as Sauvignon Blanc with the volume turned down; it's usually less zingy than Sauvignon Blanc, with more subtle aromas and milder citrus, spice and vegetal notes, which makes it the preferred match for foods with more nuanced flavors, especially vegetable dishes. Even the wine's name (Grüner means "green") points you in the right pairing direction.

Recipe: Cauliflower Soup With Blue Cheese Croutons
Serves 4

1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 medium onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup whole milk
1/2 loaf French bread (crispy, day-old bread is best), cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces Stilton (or another mellow blue cheese)
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
Fresh chives, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt the 4 tablespoons of butter in a Dutch oven or large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and cauliflower and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The cauliflower should start to caramelize and release its nutty aroma.

Add the stock and milk and bring the soup to a gentle simmer. Cook, uncovered, until cauliflower is very tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.

While the soup is cooking, prepare the croutons. Mash together the oil and blue cheese in a bowl until soft. Toss with the bread cubes and spread out on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in the oven until toasted, about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Puree the soup in small batches using a blender or food processor. Return to the pot and season to taste with salt and pepper. If the soup is too thick, thin with more milk. (At this point the soup can be chilled and reserved for a day or two.) To serve: Garnish with chives and serve with the croutons on the side.

Wines

Wine Score Price
WINZER KREMS Grüner Veltliner Qualitätswein Trocken Kremstal Kremser Wachtberg 2003 90 $19
Ripe, with flavors of quince, mango and pear all wrapped in a blanket of soft buttercream. Plenty of structure, with exotic spice and smoke notes that linger on the finish. Drink now through 2008. 2,500 cases made. --K.M.
 
NIGL Grüner Veltliner Qualitätswein Trocken Kremstal Kremser Freiheit 2003 89 $19
Fresh, spicy and well-structured, with flavors dominated by grapefruit and Meyer lemon. Elegant, with a mouthwatering finish. Delicious and exceptionally well-balanced. Drink now. 4,000 cases made. --K.M.
 
HIEDLER Grüner Veltliner Qualitätswein Trocken Kamptal Löss 2003 88 $15
Citrus elements dominate. Moderately intense, with lime and marzipan flavors. Finishes with pepper and savory spice notes. Drink now. 2,500 cases made.
--K.M.
 
FREIE WEINGÄRTNER WACHAU Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Trocken Wachau Terrassen Domäne Wachau 2003 88 $11
Concentrated aromas and flavors of flint, green peach and smoke, with background shadings of lemon, lime and mineral. Well-structured, this will benefit from short-term aging. Drink now through 2007. 2,000 cases imported. --K.M.
 
E. & M. BERGER Grüner Veltliner Qualitätswein Trocken Kremstal 2003 87 $13/1L
Fairly tight and focused, with grapefruit and white pepper flavors. Appealing notes of lime and stone on the finish. Drink now through 2007. 8,000 cases made.
--K.M.
 

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