Hot & Cold – pairing French onion soup to white wine

‘Tis the season to slurp soups. These bowls of warmth and heart-warming goodness make winter lunchtimes and cold nights much more cosy but I’ve often struggled with the idea of pairing a bowl of soup with a wine. Liquid… and more liquid! There is a lot to consider, intensity, flavour, texture and temperature. Sounds a bit of mouthful right! However, if you break down and examine the ingredients you will see similarities to many other foods you eat on a regular basis. Think stews, pasta sauces and even gravies!

French onion soup is one of my favourite winter warmers. Surely there isn’t anything better than an indulgent serving (check out the butter levels in the recipe further down!) of this French classic. This soulful soup developed from humble origins as a cheap soup for commoners. With the addition of grilled cheese though, it became a dish for the upper classes of Paris to eat after having one too many wines on their nights out. Nowadays, you’ll find the dish in family kitchens as a delightfully simply one-pot meal, or being practised by top chefs as a study in back-to-basics cooking.

The soup has a dominating onion flavour, rounded off with rich beef broth and a mouth-watering cheesy crouton. The recipe calls for simple and wholesome ingredients and there aren’t any fancy techniques for getting it right. And, if you need one, you can always use “I need a bit for cooking with” as an excuse to open a bottle of wine. Don’t worry, it’s only a dash you will have plenty left for your glass.


A couple of tips when following the recipe:

  1. The ingredients are simple but you need good quality stock and cheese to take the soup to the next level.
  2. Make sure you use all the flour. I didn’t quite have enough and the soup started off being a bit on the weak side. I let the soup reduce slightly to thicken it up and it was much better.
  3. Add the wine in stages to keep the pot hot whilst “deglazing” it. This just means using the alcohol present in the wine to help pull any crispy bits off the bottom of the pan. Reduce the wine right down before adding the stock to give the soup a really rich mouthfeel.

The Palomino/Chenin Blanc blend by AA Badenhorst Papegaai is an ideal pairing alongside the soup. The crisp acidity of this South African white cuts through the buttery, dense texture of the broth, and refreshes your palate without dominating it. The Palomino grape (which is also used for sherry) adds texture to the palate while the Chenin Blanc brings notes of lemon and a hint of honey which compliments the caramelized onions. Many would see beef stock and grab a red however the aim of the game is to enhance not over-power. A big red can often be a bit cloying whereas the Papegaai white lifts the palate of this sturdy soup.  

Have you ever tried pairing a wine to a soup? It’s not a common coupling so let me know your experiences. Also, tell me if you follow the French Onion soup recipe and if you’ve got any tips or tricks that I’ve missed.


Recipe for the French Onion Soup - serves 6 people;

  • 5tbsp of salted butter
  • 2 yellow onions sliced thinly
  • 3 red onions sliced thinly
  • 1 tsp of honey
  • 1 tbsp. of French thyme chopped finely
  • 2 tsp of dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp. of fresh sage chopped finely
  • 3 tbsp. of plain flour
  • Half a cup of white wine
  • 2 litres of beef stock (good quality)
  • 1 tbsp. of Worcester sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • French baguette cut diagonally into 3cm thick slices
  • 1 cup Gruyère cheese grated



  1. Place a large heavy based pot over a medium heat. Wait till the pot is warm and then add the butter. Once melted add all the chopped onions and honey. Don’t forget to stir often to stop them from burning.
  2. After about 30-40minutes, or once the onions have completely softened and gone golden brown colour you can stir in the chopped herbs. Once these are mixed in add the flour and continue to stir for 5 minutes to incorporate the flour and stop the ingredients from sticking.
  3. Next you add in the wine (remember to put it back in the fridge for later!), stock, Worcestershire sauce, and bay leaves. Bring the pot to a simmer (change the heat up/down if needed). Season with salt and pepper, then continue to simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Put the oven onto a grill setting at a medium heat and remove the bay leaves from the soup.
  5. Ladle your soup into heat proof bowls and place two slices of baguette on top. Sprinkle a generous amount of cheese on the slices.
  6. Place your bowl into the oven, regularly check to see when your cheese just started to brown. Remove the bowl from the oven carefully. (If you don’t have oven proof bowl then you can just place your baguette sliced on a baking sheet and grill)
  7. Finish the soup off with extra chopped herbs and a crack of black pepper. Enjoy!

Guest written, and recipe supply by; The Demeter Diaries


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