The intricate dance of wine and food pairing reaches new levels of complexity when bridging the gap between traditional Asian cuisine and Western wines. The challenge becomes particularly intriguing with the task of pairing Beef Pho, a quintessential Vietnamese soup known for its rich, aromatic broth, with a Chardonnay from Napa Valley's Oak Knoll District. The Oak Knoll District is celebrated for producing Chardonnays that strike a balance between fruit and acidity, often with a moderate use of oak, yielding wines that exhibit both richness and refreshing crispness. This unique profile necessitates a thoughtful reimagining of Beef Pho, enhancing its traditional qualities to harmonize with the wine's character.

Oak Knoll District Chardonnay Profile

A bottle of 2021 Trefethen Signature Chardonnay was used as a reference in this exercise.

Oak Knoll District Chardonnays are noted for their layered complexity, featuring ripe fruit flavors such as apple, pear, and citrus, underpinned by a refreshing acidity and a subtle hint of oak that adds a creamy texture and nuances of vanilla and toast. The wines' elegant balance of fruit, acidity, and textural depth sets the stage for a pairing that accentuates the aromatic spices and savory depth of Beef Pho while respecting the delicate interplay of flavors within both the dish and the wine.

Culinary Modifications to Beef Pho

Broth Enhancement

  1. Aromatic Spice Adjustment: While traditional pho spices like star anise, clove, and cinnamon are integral, their quantities should be carefully managed to prevent overwhelming the wine. Incorporating lemongrass and ginger can introduce a citrusy, refreshing element that mirrors the Chardonnay’s acidity.
  2. Broth Base: Lighten the beef broth by using a combination of beef and chicken bones, aiming for a cleaner, less fatty mouthfeel that complements the Chardonnay's body without overpowering it.
Beef Pho and Oak Knoll District Chardonnay

Beef Preparation

  1. Beef Selection: Opt for leaner cuts of beef, such as tenderloin or sirloin, sliced thinly to ensure they cook just enough to retain tenderness when immersed in the hot broth. This approach aligns with the wine's elegance and avoids the heaviness of fattier cuts.

Accompaniments and Garnishes

  1. Herbs and Greens: Emphasize fresh herbs like cilantro and Thai basil, along with green onions, to add a burst of freshness and a slight peppery note that can highlight the wine's fruit notes and acidity. A touch of lime on the side allows for acidity adjustment to match the wine’s profile.
  2. Vegetable Additions: Incorporate lightly blanched vegetables such as bok choy or snow peas to the garnish, introducing a subtle sweetness and crisp texture that resonates with the wine's crispness and fruit character.

Noodle Selection

  1. Rice Noodles: Stick with traditional thin rice noodles that offer a delicate texture, ensuring the dish remains light and allowing the broth's nuanced flavors to shine through, complementing the wine's complexity and mouthfeel.

Serving Suggestions

Serve the modified Beef Pho with a chilled glass of Oak Knoll District Chardonnay, ensuring the wine is not too cold to appreciate its nuanced flavors. The soup should be presented with the garnishes on the side, allowing each diner to tailor the dish's freshness and acidity to their palate, creating a personalized harmony with the wine.


The artful pairing of Beef Pho with Oak Knoll District Chardonnay exemplifies the potential for cross-cultural culinary exploration, showcasing how traditional dishes can be thoughtfully adapted to complement the profiles of world-class wines. By carefully adjusting the Beef Pho's aromatic profile, selecting leaner beef cuts, and emphasizing fresh, crisp garnishes, the dish is transformed into a perfect counterpart to the Chardonnay's balance of fruit, acidity, and subtle oak. This innovative pairing not only respects the integrity of both the wine and the dish but also opens up new avenues for enjoying and understanding the dynamic relationship between food and wine.

Beef Pho and Oak Knoll District Chardonnay