Top wine pairings with asparagus
Whenever anyone talks about foods that are difficult to match with wine, asparagus always comes up but I reckon the problem is overstated.
Just like any other ingredient it depends how you cook and serve it and how many other ingredients there are on the plate. Few people serve asparagus totally unadorned.
The most popular association is with Sauvignon Blanc which can have a marked asparagus flavour itself so you need another ingredient on the plate such as salmon, chicken or goats cheese to revive those flavours in the wine.
Wines that can be tricky are wines with a touch of sweetness as asparagus can accentuate that. Oaked whites are generally not too successful (except with rich buttery sauces - see below) nor are wines with pronounced tannins. Here are my suggestions with different asparagus preparations:
- With a vinaigrette - Needs a wine that can cope with the vinaigrette and won’t compete with the asparagus. I prefer an earthy, dry, unoaked Italian white such as Verdicchio or dry Orvieto to a Sauvignon Blanc here. Or a light, dry rosé without too much upfront berry fruit
- With melted butter or mayo - Where the asparagus is offset by the richness of butter or mayo but there isn’t anything else on the plate: an unoaked or lightly oaked Chardonnay such as Chablis
- With hollandaise or soft-boiled or poached eggs - Here the sauce or accompaniments begin to take over so go for a mature oaked Chardonnay (one in which the wood is well integrated but which is still fresh-tasting), traditional white Rioja or Champagne
- With goats cheese or prawns and salad - here’s where to drink Sauvignon Blanc, especially minerally Sauvignons from the Loire like Sancerre. The goats’ cheese accentuates rather than knocking out the asparagus flavours in the wine. English whites like Bacchus are also good.
- With grilled salmon - Semillon-Sauvignon blends, especially from Bordeaux or Western Australia generally work well
- With crab - a very dry Riesling, from e.g. Austria won’t overwhelm the crab
- With sautéed or fried chicken - Here asparagus is likely to be the vegetable so go for a wine that will match the chicken such as a light or moderately oaked Chardonnay
- Asparagus risotto - You’re matching the creamy risotto not just the asparagus. A crisp, fresh Italian white such as Pinot Grigio from the Alto Adige is the ideal option in my view or other dry Pinot Grigios
- Asparagus quiche - Alsace Pinot Blanc or Italian Pinot Bianco is a generally reliable choice with quiches. Alternatively go for a light, unoaked Chardonnay
- Chargrilled asparagus with mushrooms/roast asparagus with pancetta - Here’s where you can go for a light Loire red such as Bourgeuil or Saumur-Champigny, inexpensive red burgundy or other light, unoaked Pinot Noir
- In a stir fry - the sauce is likely to be the determining factor here. Assuming it’s something reasonably light to preserve the flavour of the asparagus I’d go for an off-dry Riesling from e.g. Germany
- White asparagus - Popular in central and southern Europe. My favourite pairing is young Grüner Veltliner, though others will go for dry Riesling or even dry Muscat (though the latter is not to everyone’s taste). Dry Spanish rosado is also good.
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