Wild Asparagus and Wines – Yes, A Pairing is Possible

Each year beginning in spring, I look for a vegetable slightly resembling asparagus. Sometimes called Bath Asparagus or Spiked Star of Bethlehem, it is distantly related to the common green asparagus we know. Just as delicious, I buy it often during the short availability window it appears in farmers’ markets and stores. With a milder flavor than green asparagus and not quite as vegetal, wild asparagus is one extraordinary pairing with a variety of wines. I explain why below.

This perennial sometimes reaches sixty centimeters plus (two feet), but you want to catch them half that size. The stalks and the sprouts – the latter eventually flower – are edible.

Any green or white asparagus cooking preparation suits them just fine. However, because of their milder flavor which melds nicely with other foods, if you want to taste the vegetable, it’s best to not add extremely powerful items like garlic, anchovies, tomato sauce, strong cheese… you get my drift! On the flip side, that mildness means you can add them to almost any dish. And they have fantastic eye appeal.

For a quick, lighter dish, I sauté them in extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) with a smidgen of finely minced garlic. A squeeze of lemon once plated brightens the dish. Then topping with a poached egg dusted with a finishing sea salt and an EVOO drizzle provides just enough yolk sauce to sop with your favorite artisan bread. Being non-gluten, I go with buckwheat groat bread or muffins I make, toasted, then sliced thin for ‘pushing and soping’

The above described dish is excellent with bubbles. Since I’m in Bordeaux, I turn to organic and biodynamic producer Dawn Jones-Cooper’s stunning Extra Dry Pétillant (a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadet). Brisk, clean and elegant, it goes face-to-face with the asparagus’ mild vegetal character (allowing both the wine and asparagus to shine) while enhancing the rich egg and EVOO taste just enough. But actually, any of her white wines will work, especially the 100% Muscadet.

My last of her inaugural 2016 vintage. Thankfully a more recent vintage awaits in my cellar!

A more gourmand, room temperature dish starts with making a fava bean or English pea purée that serves as a base for wild asparagus sautéed in EVOO (with that hint of garlic again). Here in Bordeaux, I can get a delightful goat cheese burrata; tear it in pieces, put it over the top, then add any type of garniture or a pinch of smoked sea salt. As far as burrata type, cow or buffalo milk work just fine too. This version is all about the green flavors, which play well with a variety of white wines.

In the above photo, I made a mixture of sautéed red bell peppers and onions and threw in English peas as a topping for the dish, then added mint. Sometimes, I make a creme fraiche sauce by adding a teaspoon or so of water to a few large dollops of creme fraiche and use this as the base for the above dish (you can see some here). Either way, it is simple to make and very tasty!

Wild Asparagus Wine Pairings

Wines that pair nicely with wild asparagus dishes include almost any dry white wine including some favorites: the under-rated Umbrian Orvieto (60% Grechetto and Procanico (Trebbiano Toscano) plus other Italian grapes), Grüner Veltliner, and Fino or Manzanilla dry Sherry. Also, you can’t go wrong with a Chardonnay but make sure it isn’t super oaky and did not go through ML (malolactic fermentation). The buttery flavor resulting from ML detracts from overall enjoyment of the pairing.

For reds, depending on how you prepare the dish, you want lower tannin wines: Gamay (try an easy to find Beaujolais Village), Schiava from Alto Adige in Northern Italy, Frappato from Sicily (Santa Tresa makes a lovely example available in many countries), or Mondeuse (from the French Savoie region). You can serve each of these slightly chilled.

For a tasty natural wine, you can’t beat Cellar Frisach from the Terra Alta appellation of Catalonia. Their L’Abrunet is a blend of Granacha and Carinyena fermented in stainless, aged in cement tanks. A vein of minerality runs through this lighter style, fresh red. Small organic producer, easy to find in the US!
Pan seared monk fish and wild asparagus over a sautéed red onion, cherry tomato and black olive sauce. This ended up a stonger flavored dish – I made it as I went along. Yet it was outstanding with L’Abrunet from Cellar Frisach shown above.

Lastly, rosé offers fantastic pleasure with wild asparagus. I especially like fuller-bodied types (those from the French regions Bandol and Tavel are fairly easy to find), or Spanish rosé. Many smaller California producers make great rosé including Sonoma organic producer Two Shepards (try their Rosé of Cinsault). Read about Tavel, and other Terroir Rosés that love any type of asparagus here.

Final Thoughts and a Recipe

I found this recipe from French culinary blogger Anne Lataillade at Papilles et Pupilles which shows how easy wild asparagus are to prepare. She puts them in a sauté pan of lightly boiling and salted water for three minutes, then a minute in an ice bath, followed by a paper towel to dry. Cheers to how easy that is!

I’m eager to hear from you if you find and cook up this delightful vegetable. Don’t forget to share your wine pairing! À votre santé !

7 thoughts on “Wild Asparagus and Wines – Yes, A Pairing is Possible

  1. Lauren Walsh

    Bravo! Each of these pairings has my mouth watering. I’ve never had asperges sauvage but it sounds like the perfect spring ingredient. Very intrigued by the sparkling wine as well. Bon appétit!

    1. Lynn Post author

      Ohhh, glad to hear! Next time I visit my bro in DRB, I’ll bring a bottle of the Bordeaux sparkling wine for you.

  2. Allison Wallace

    I don’t think we’ve ever tried this particular vegetable though it may be that it was served to us in Europe on a past trip. But that age-old pairing dilemma of Asapragus is certainly solved in this article–Pet Nat!!

    1. Lynn Post author

      You nailed it with Pet-Net as a pairing! I haven’t had one in a while so not in my immediate mind.
      Thanks for adding that Allison ;-D

    1. Lynn Post author

      Thanks Julian! I didn’t mention that I deglazed with a bit of white wine after sautéeing the red onions, then threw in the chopped olives and cherry toms. Hope you enjoy the dish. And more importantly, hope you find wild asparagus and a great wine to pair!

  3. John Wieland

    Whoa, now that hit home. Some new varietals to consider for my wine portfolio. That bubbly-combo talks to me. You did a nice job bringing all these elements together for a mouth-water, reading journey. Cheers!


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