Sour cabbage, smoked knuckle, sausage, sour cream – the ingredients of a soup aimed to heal our stomach after New Year’s Eve party. But we can enjoy this delicious treat with wine as well. Which variety can handle the complexity of the soup? We have asked some experts.
Before AND after – cure for the stomach
There is a sour cabbage soup which has numerous names: ’korhelyleves’ can be translated literally to ’drunkard soup’, though the word ’korhely’ has a hidden elegance, it depicts a young noble man, who spends all his evenings in restaurants drinking and socializing with women. The soup is usually served on New Year’s Day to calm down the upset stomach after a whole night of drinking. The soup is also called Night Owl’s soup, in this case – as the name suggests – the soup is served during the long night to prevent hangover. Whatever is the case, the soup is rich and delicious, no wonder it is popular also in Slovakia and Poland (Kapustnica) but known in France as well (soupe de choucroute), though all of them are made in a slightly different way.
How to make Korhelyleves
We have found a collection of Hungarian recipes written in English by a Hungarian lady living in Canada. She uses ingredients that she can find outside the borders of Hungary, and all her recipes are well proven. Look at Zsuzsa in the kitchen and try this delicious soup this New Year’s Eve.
What to pair with the rich soup?
To find a partner for this dish is a real challenge: strong flavours, sour aromas, smoked meat, creaminess, picante paprika. A nightmare for sommeliers – or not.
- Aromatic white – Koch Cserszegi Fűszeres
Our first thought was to find a rather aromatic wine, in which the sweetish grapey aromas balance the sourness of the cabbage. Árpád Lipcsey journalist agrees, he recommends Degenfeld Muscat Blanc. Gyula Szalai (Kinizsi Vinotéka) has the same argument: he would go for an aromatic white. Dénes Uliczki wine expert (TR works) also suggests aromatic Cserszegi Fűszeres, he found this wine recommendation in an old cookery book. Koch Cserszegi Fűszeres from Hajós–Baja is a wonderful example of the variety: „Gooseberry and elderberry on the nose with ‘the promise of full bodied wine (just as charming as that of a beautiful woman). On the palate its acidity is like a melody. Complex wine in which the variety and the technology encounters and results in preserved primary aromas and flavours, still it is not the usual perfume like wine, not simple and flat, but attractive, healthy, full of life and power.”
- Matured white with significant acidity – Tornai Aranyhegy Juhfark
Fiona Beckett British winewriter pairs Alsacian choucroute (a rather similar local dish though not in the form of a soup) with Alsacian Rhine Riesling, while Eszter Fűszeres, a wellknown gastroblogger uses dry white wine within the soup (she adds half a litre wine to one kilo of cabbage). Zoltán Kertész, owner of Kertész Winery / Carla Sparkling House usually serves a full bodied Szürkebarát (Pinot Grigio). Zsolt Szeredi, importer of Spanish wines would also pick a white, characteristic wine, dealing with Spanish wines his choice is a Txacoli. Miklós Schneider (Hungarian Sommelier Association) would be brave enough to try a matured Champagne. Reni Sover winegeek would go for a matured, oaked Chardonnay with 5 g residual sugar because of the pyrazines of the variety. Victoria Evans head sommelier of Caviar & Bull suggests a Somló wine, a Somlói Barabás Hárslevelű 2015. Péter Blazsovszky, head sommelier of Babel restaurant follows the same path: an acidic, characteristic, matured white with some residual sugar is ideal with the soup. Péter Blazsovszky mentions Hollóvár wines from Somló (still available in some shops for collectors) and Stefan Spiegelberg with his exciting white Somló wines with residual sugar. Péter also recommends Tornai Aranyhegy Juhfark, as the perfect match: „True terroir wine, through which reflects very well the power of Somló. Plenty of minerality on the nose, harmonious fruit in the background in combination with oakiness. Very rich on the palate, compact. The character of the soil is well mirrored, which is enriched by the oaky and very rich on the palate, compact.”
- Red wine with acidity and restrained oak: Eszterbauer Tanyamacska Szekszárdi Kékfrankos
The third group of opinions is red, but siller is also mentioned. Tibor Malacsik wine expert from Eger would pair cabbage soup – if the cabbage is not too sour – with Tóth Ferenc Siller from Eger, while Norbert Kovács would go further, he would choose an acidic red wine with not much oak, like Sebestyén Nánai Kékfrankos 2016. Eszterbauer Tanyamacska Kékfrankos is another good example of this style: „The Kékfrankos made in a typical Szekszárd style shows the excitement of the variety with the richness of fruits and acidity, but at the same time it reflects the mildness of the wine region. The wine has a long finish with a lot of fruit. The body is medium due to the vintage. Firm structure.”