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Jan 4, 2011
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Wine With . . . Sweet Potato Vichyssoise

by Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas

As Julia Child points out in Mastering the Art of French Cooking (vol. 1), vichyssoise is an American invention based on a classic French leek and potato soup.  We’ve taken the liberty of tweaking the original a little by using sweet potatoes, but otherwise we’ve stuck pretty closely to the traditional format.  Sweet potatoes add lovely color, savory flavors, and a blissfully smooth and creamy texture.  True vichyssoise is served cold, and this one is as pretty as it is tasty when presented chilled, topped with snippings of chives and accompanied by flutes of sparkling wine.  Served warm it technically is no longer vichyssoise, but it does make a fine first course to a cold weather dinner, and also can be rich and robust enough to be the centerpiece of a simple supper.  We’ve found that cold soup is generally more challenging to pair with wine, while the warm variation on the theme proves somewhat more welcoming.

This soup may a day ahead of time if desired.  Serve it plain or topped with croutons and/or sour cream.  Or add a squeeze of lime juice and a dusting of grated lime peel to add bright, citrusy nuances.

Sweet Potato Vichyssoise

Serves six.

6 tablespoons butter

4 leeks

3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

6 cups chicken broth

1½ cups white wine

1 cup heavy cream

salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a large pot.  Trim the leeks (discarding the tough green tops), clean thoroughly, and cut in two-inch pieces.  Cook the leeks in the butter over low heat until they are tender (do not let them brown).  Add the sweet potatoes, the chicken broth and the wine.  Simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes, and remove from the heat.  When cool enough to handle puree the mixture in batches in a food processor or blender.  Return it to the pan, add the cream and reheat the soup, seasoning to taste.   

t  t  t

This soup, served hot on a cold, wintry evening, turned out to be the rare dish we’ve made over the years for “Wine With” and Wine Review Online that produced real disagreement regarding the best sort of wine pairing.  One of us much preferred lush, fruit-filled wines, many with more than a hint of sweetness, finding that they provided a smooth complement to the rich creamy soup.  The other one, though, found these wines too flabby, and voted instead for crisp, bright wines with plenty of acidity, arguing that these provided an appealing contrast of both texture and flavor.  Discussing the wines brought no closure, as each of us became more convinced we were right.  The only thing we could agree on is that the one red wine we tried (a California Pinot Noir) did not work, as the tannins proved intrusive.  But as to the whites and sparklers. . . well, we finally just agreed to disagree.  If you make this soup, let us know which sort of wine you think pairs best with it.  We’re betting against each other as to what you’ll say.      



Approx. Price





Freixenet, Cava (Spain) “Elyssia” Gran Cuvée Brut NV

(Imported by Freixenet USA)






We often like sparkling wines with soup, as the bubbles can provide a textural counterpoint.  In this case we’re recommending two—one that’s crisp and bracing, and a second that’s supple and sensuous (corresponding to our different preferences with this particular soup).  This “Elyssia” fits the first profile.  It tastes of tart apples and citrus, with a hint of hay or dried herbs in the finish, and so can cut through the creamy richness of the soup.



Heinz Eifel, Mosel (Germany) Riesling  Auslese “A” 2009

(Imported by Winesellers Ltd.)






Quite sweet, with aromas and flavors that echo peaches and apricots, this wine brings out the sweetness in the soup, making for a very sensuous match.  While one of us thought it excessive, the other found it delectable. 



Hess Collection, Napa Valley (California) Chardonnay “Su’skol” 2008





Very creamy and lush, this Chardonnay echoed the smooth, velvety texture of the soup.  Dry but fruity, it was the one wine that both of us voted to recommend.



Louis Jadot, Chablis (France) 2009

(Imported by Kobrand)






Tasting of lemons and apples, with a mineral-laden undertone, this wine definitely provided a contrast to the rich soup.  One of us thought it seemed too acidic, while the other found it compelling because refreshing.


Schramsberg, North Coast (California) Brut Rosé 2007




Clean and fresh, but overflowing with ripe strawberry and raspberry fruit flavors, this youthful bubbly complemented the cream and sweet potatoes nicely, while its bubbles made everything seem fresh and lively.