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The Truth About Wine and Asparagus

Asparagus is delightful on its own, but it can clash with wine. F&W’s Ray Isle explains which styles work with the famously hard-to-pair spring vegetable.

When it comes to vegetables, asparagus is a strange one. First off, it can grow up to seven inches per day in good weather, which means we should be glad farmers harvest it, or else asparagus would soon take over the world. Second, well, as Pierre Larousse put it in his Grand Dictionnaire Universel, “Tout le monde connaît l’odeur fétide qu’elle communique à l’urine.” You don’t have to speak French to know what he’s talking about. And third, asparagus messes with wine.

Simply put, it’s a very vegetal vegetable—that chlorophyll-driven green flavor that’s part of what makes it delightful clashes with a lot of wines. More important, it contains compounds like asparagusic acid, which, in case you were wondering, is an organosulfur carboxylic acid... Well, enough of that. Basically, the stuff makes a lot of wine taste metallic and harsh. Not an ideal situation.

But the asparagus-and-wine lovers of the world shouldn’t despair. You can always do something like slather your asparagus with buckets of cheese sauce—voilà, wine-friendly asparagus, sort of—or, better yet, choose a wine that goes well with the stuff. Stay away from tannic reds or oaky whites and go for something citrusy, herbal and unoaked, for instance a Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé from France’s Loire Valley, Grüner Veltliner from Austria, Alsace Riesling, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, even unoaked Chardonnay, especially from a cooler region like Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

Or you could go crazy and serve your asparagus with actual asparagus wine, made from fresh asparagus by the fine folks at the Fox Barn Market & Winery in Shelby, Michigan.

Follow Executive Wine Editor Ray Isle on Twitter @islewine.

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