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Sep 18, 2018
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WINE WITH…Corn Chowder with Sausage

What’s the difference between soup and chowder?  One way to put it is that all chowder is soup, but not all soup is chowder.  In other words, chowder is a very specific sort of soup.  It is almost always thick and chunky (bisque, another type of soup, is generally smooth).  Chowder is usually either corn based or seafood based, or both (as in our recipe for Salmon and Corn Chowder, which appeared in this space in early July).  Chowder almost always includes cream, with the one notable exception being tomato-based Manhattan clam chowder, which many critics don’t even think should be included in the classification.

With summer on the wane we wanted this corn chowder to be a presage of autumn, heartier than our midsummer corn and salmon chowder.  Discs of sausage add substance and abundant flavor to the dish, but ham or even crumbled bacon would work equally well.  We further livened the chowder up with cumin and other spices, and we encourage you to spice it up to your taste with chili powder, cayenne, Aleppo pepper, or whatever appeals to you.

There’s no question that fresh corn, which is still available at farm stands and farmers’ markets, adds a unique summery flavor and texture to any dish, but substituting frozen corn in no way diminishes the enjoyment of this chowder during the fall and winter seasons when fresh isn’t readily available.

Corn Chowder with Sausage

Serves 4

4 ears corn
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup minced onion
1 poblano pepper, seeded and minced
two tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
4 cups chicken stock (or water or vegetable broth)
½ pint heavy cream
salt and pepper
½ pound Kielbasa or other smoked sausage
smoked paprika

Husk the corn, remove the silks, and cut the kernels off the cob. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot and add the onion and poblano pepper.  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 3-5 minutes or until the onions have softened, then stir in the garlic.  Add the seasonings, and when it all comes to a boil add the corn kernels.  Simmer for 5 minutes, then whisk in the cream and simmer another 10 minutes, then add the sausage and cook for another 10 minutes.  To serve, ladle the chowder into individual soup bowls and top with a dash or two of smoked paprika.

*         *         *

We found that color made no difference when choosing a suitable partner for our chowder.  Whites accented the creaminess of the soup; reds emphasized the heartiness of the sausage; and a rosé occupied a sort of middle ground.  We did find that wines with overt sweetness, whether from residual sugar or overripe fruit, fared less well, so recommend that you stick with ones on the drier side of the spectrum.  And don’t forget bubbles.  The effervescence invariably provides an appealing textural contrast with soup of any sort.

More recipes and wine pairings:    Wine With...  
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Approx. Price




Davis Bynum,

Russian River Valley

Sonoma County



“River West Vineyard”








Chardonnay and corn always make for a heavenly match, and this wine tasted wonderful with the chowder.  Its fruity, buttery character meshed perfectly with every creamy, corn-laden spoonful.





Vin Gris of Pinot Noir Rosé


A vivacious rosé, genuinely dry, and full of bright berry flavors, this wine fared much better than did a California Pinot that, being super sweet, ended up seeming cloying.  By contrast, this wine proved refreshing above all else. 



Western Cape

(South Africa)

“Kaapse Vonkel”



(Imported by Quintesential)







A very impressive Champagne-styled brut sparkler, made via the classic method and with the classic triad of grape varieties.  It does not exhibit the yeasty edge that distinguishes the best French originals, but it is still deliciously complex and compelling.  A true eye-opener, and a beautiful chowder partner!


Stellenbosch Vineyards


(South Africa)




(Imported by VinAmericas)










We confess to usually being skeptical of Pinotage, finding wines made from this vinifera cross to be cumbersome and unfocused.  This particular wine, however, was a delightful surprise.  It’s smooth and silky, with a hint of savory spice that accented the poblano heat in the chowder.  If more Pinotage tasted this good, we’d be happy converts.










(Imported by Opici Wines)










Perhaps due to its age, this Rioja’s fruit flavors play second fiddle to its spicy, earthy ones, making it a great sausage partner.  It worked fine with the broth and vegetables, but it shined especially brightly with the meat.