Asparagus gets a bad rap when it comes to wine. Alas, it’s true, as many wines can take on a weirdly sweet yet metallic, artificially canned fruit kinda flavor when paired with this iconic spring delight.
Not to worry, tho, for two reasons.
The first is that you’re probably not sitting down to a lonely platter of asparagus for lunch or dinner; unless you’re me and do do that, it’s probably just one part of a larger meal, so grab a nice bottle of whatever you find works with the main event and sip away. If, however, asparagus is the star attraction and you wish to hone in on a pleasant match, you may want to bear in mind a basic rule of thumb (we’re talking white, here): choose something really fresh, crisp, lean and acidic even, with zero oak treatment I would suggest. Sauvignon blanc naturally comes to mind, and world-wide this wine is better than ever as winemakers learn to leave it alone and let the grape’s aromatic, pungent personality shine. Sancerre from the Loire Valley in France is a classic, or a Touraine sauvignon for an even less expensive choice. A slightly less tropical and less bodacious New Zealand offering can do the trick, as can a balanced California version from Lake County or Monterey County, to name a few. Other suggestions include an honest, zesty Pinot Grigio from Italy, of course (thinking Friuli or the Alto Adige), or a citrusy Rueda from Spain. And whatever you do, do not forget about Grüner Veltliner from Austria (or try one if you’ve never before), one of the current darlings of the wine world: a slightly peppery, mineral laden white wine, and a great foil for vegetable-based dishes. Finally: a pale, firm and dry (and ever so slightly earthy) Mediterranean-style Rosé, another of my favorite springtime indulgences as the newest vintage comes to market, and a wine that needn’t be fussed over. There’s a bevy of other fine options out there, and most of them can be easy on the pocketbook, so chat with your neighborhood wine merchant to get some more suggestions.
Grüner veltliner was going to be my second tip (especially a lighter and leaner expression), because it’s so damned adept at succeeding where other wines fall a bit flat, but I already mentioned it. So my second suggestion is to squeeze a bit of fresh lemon and a couple grinds of cracked pepper on top of your log jam mound of asparagus (maybe some minced chives, too); a no brainer as the threesome go hand in hand, but one that seems to help mitigate the sometimes difficult or awkward food/wine match.
Eat real food, people. And eat your veggies.
Peter J. Palmer