Asparagus - Friend or enemy of wine?
Wine and asparagus have long had a love/hate relationship. On the one hand, they're both great sources of nutrients and on the other, they shouldn’t be mixed together. Or should they?
It’s time to forget the old list of “wine enemies.” Today culinary techniques and modern recipes make all ingredients wine-friendly.
But you do, however, need to:
Like the ingredient and
Like wine of course.
I’ll give you two personal examples.
I don’t like to eat cheese with red wine, nor grilled sardines with white wine. However tasty the cheese, the very freshest of sardines, and fabulous the wine, I will not like the reaction in my mouth. You on the contrary may love the pairing and that’s great!
As a Sommelier when making a wine recommendation for a meal I must put my personal taste aside and support my suggestion based on the wine/dish pairing. I should also reinforce any facts that were previously shared with me by the customer on their general preferences or what wine they drank the last time. I need to know the customer’s palette and not my own!
Before moving on, you may be curious to know who the enemies of wine are:
And the list could go on with Brussels sprouts, cheese, etc.
I decided to write about this topic because recently on Instagram, someone asked me to suggest an asparagus wine and I thought you might be interested too.
I’m here to help people experience more pleasure and have more confidence in drinking wine. If you’re ever stuck, count on me for support.
Besides, I discovered that April 23th is International Asparagus Day. On that day visit my Instagram as I'll be making some posts specifically about this topic.
Now you might be familiar with preserved white asparagus or the green ones you find in the frozen section of your supermarket. But if you’ve tasted fresh or even wild asparagus, you certainly wouldn’t confuse them for one another.
Wild asparagus appears now in springtime after the first rains, near cork trees, olive trees, and in forests. They range in color from dark green to violet and are much safer to pick than mushrooms, but difficult to see with the naked eye.
You have to look for Espargueira (asparagus flower) and know how to remove them carefully.
They’re tender, fleshy, when properly cooked, which is, to cook them for less time for better results. They’re also slightly crunchy and acidic in flavor. And as the great connoisseurs would say “with nuances of nut.”
Asparagus Wine Pairing
When I think of eating asparagus, I think of drinking white wines with acidity, from the Arinto, Alvarinho grape varieties or from the regions of Bairrada and Beira Interior. Basic rule - white wines always without aging in wood (unoaked).
Asparagus has some compounds that together with wine that can result in a strange, metallic flavor in your mouth at times.
The way you cook asparagus is very important, especially if you’re going to add sauce.
If you’re an advocate of “asparagus never with wine” then let me confess my sin… my favorite way to eat asparagus is with scrambled eggs!
Bang! Two enemies of wine, eggs, and asparagus together! This Sommelier is crazy!
I happen to love eggs. I like asparagus. And I love white wine too. My brain feels pleasure, satisfaction and that's why I like the combination.
Asparagus can also be the side dish, for example a meat dish. And in this case, they are equally delicious with a red wine!
Shall we go to the kitchen?
As I mentioned above, the best way to cook asparagus is to cook it a little. You can choose to steam them or blanch them.
To reduce the less pleasant “green” flavor of asparagus, another cooking method is to lightly bake or grill them. This way of cooking them will make them almost “best-friends” of white or red wine.
At the table you can choose to eat asparagus as a starter or as a snack, invariably a white wine will be a good option. Be it an asparagus cream, with “my” scrambled eggs, or a classic - asparagus with hollandaise sauce.
They can also be the main dish, as an asparagus risotto for example, or even the accompaniment of veal medallions.
You can continue with the white wine, open a rosé for the veal dish, or even a red from a variety like Castelão.
Always look for wines that have little to no aging in wood. Maximum three to four years of age and few months spent in oak barrels, or none at all.
In conclusion, I believe that you may have agreed with some of my suggestions for harmonization or maybe not. It's okay, it should be like that. My taste, or that of any other Sommelier, is not superior to yours. My job is to introduce you to the idea of possibile harmonies between food and wine pairings that you’ve never thought of before and invite you to experiment.
We’re in the season of asparagus, it will be easy to find them for sale in the markets and local shops soon. Choose a recipe and a bottle of wine to your liking based on my suggestions above.
Let me know how your asparagus wine pairing was in the comments below. And maybe even share your asparagus recipe too.