As spring arrives, so too does Germany’s beloved “Spargel” (white asparagus) season. Minds and mouths then turn to the perennial question: Which wines go best with Spargel, and other varieties of asparagus? Steffen Schindler, Marketing Director at the DWI, recently revealed his favorite pairings on “Volle Kanne,” a show on German broadcaster ZDF (video). His main message: There’s no one catch-all “asparagus wine.” Just as there is a seemingly infinite range of recipes and preparations for this delicious vegetable, the choice of wine accompaniments is also wide open.
Asparagus’s slightly bitter notes can, however, make it a tricky partner when it comes to wine. It often clashes when paired with the standard fruit-driven varietals. Possible alternatives: Silvaner, Weißburgunder, Grauburgunder and Rivaner (Müller-Thurgau). With their round acidity and delicate fruity aromas — reminiscent of pears, apples, nuts and flowers — they lull these savory stalks into submission, even coaxing out a bit of sweetness.
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To help with more pairings of wine and food, here’s Paul.
Wine and Asparagus Pairings
|White Asparagus – classic ‘Spargel’ is a true delicacy with its distinctive juxtaposition of mild, almost sweet and pleasantly bitter flavors.||The subtle aromas of Silvaner from Rheinhessen or Franken, as well as Gutedels from Baden provide flavor-rich asparagus with plenty of room to move and breathe.|
|Violet Asparagus – with slightly richer aromas than its snow-white sibling, and a correspondingly deeper bitter note as well.||Weißburgunder, such as a bottle from Baden or a fresh Rivaner from Franken, serve as excellent pairing companions.|
|Green Asparagus – the color is more intense, as are the aromas.||Rich aromas require a wine of suitable and similar weight. Pfalz Rieslings and powerful Grauburgunder and Chardonnay (unoaked) make an ideal complement.|
|Sauces – the classics include melted butter, chopped eggs, Hollandaise and tartar.||Rich sauces benefit from the contrast of a zippy wine pairing. While the fine spirited acidity in Mosel Rieslings serves to lighten a rich sauce, spicier versions demand a wine of considerable expression.|
|Salads – Asparagus with a mild vinaigrette or a mildly spiced dressing. If using vinegar, try white wine vinegar mixed with a bit of the asparagus broth.||Mild vinaigrette pairs beautifully with a Silvaner from Franken or an off-dry Rheingau Riesling, whose playful acidity ensures that its voice sings bright and clear.|
Asparagus with Fish, Meat and Ham
|Fish with Asparagus – fresh salmon or arctic char, poached or lightly sautéed in butter, with a touch of Hollandaise sauce — it doesn’t get much better than this!||Elegant, expressive yet still slightly savory aromas require a balanced wine pairing: A friendly Weißburgunder from the Pfalz or a refreshing Rivaner from Franken represent ideal companions.|
|Pork – milder when cooked, while the traditional cured variety (from Italy or Spain) delivers a slightly nuttier yet mild spice.||The sweet nuances of the asparagus and the saltiness of the ham form beautiful gustatory counterpoints. We recommend young Riesling or Rheinhessen Silvaner with a delicately fruity character.|
|Savory meats ask a lot of the fine aromas of the asparagus. Veal or pork cutlet, or a mildly spiced roast, can feature an expressive range of aromas.||There are also expressive, robust wines with the rich aromatic range to more than hold their own. For a truly delicious pairing try Weißburgunder, Grauburgunder or Chardonnay such as those from Baden.|
Ideas for an Open Air Asparagus Picnic
White wines that pair well with asparagus dishes should be served appropriately chilled. Whether at home or in a restaurant, there’s always a solution: Should you find yourself on the beach, bury the chilled bottle in wet sand, or take advantage of the cold from a nearby brook. Or take a peek at one of our wine cooling bags, sleeves or chillers (available in the DWI Gourmet shop). Once pre-chilled in the refrigerator, they keep white wine at a proper serving temperature for a good long while.
So how best to prep the asparagus? Simply, with Hollandaise sauce and baby potatoes? Or a bit more daring: cooked al dente and wrapped in cured, thinly sliced ham (Black Forest, San Daniele, Bayonne, Serrano – whatever suits your taste). For extra flair, pair with a mild mayonnaise dip accented with yogurt, lemon juice, capers and parsley.
If you would prefer a picnic in the park, and the journey from oven to blanket is not too far, then try filling a puff-pastry with asparagus and dot it with plenty of butter and spice (salt, pepper, nutmeg). Bake in a hot oven and wrap up in aluminum foil to keep warm, or lay on a pan for transport to the park.
A refreshing option: a salad of asparagus, baby potatoes, smoked fish, and a few pieces of lemon and lemon juice dressing, olive oil and mustard, a pinch of sugar, cayenne pepper and salt to taste. Fill into a canning jar, or into several small jars, one for each diner. Any of the asparagus wines will make a beautiful pairing. And now: Enjoy the fresh air!