Wine Pairing For a Local Favourite

In News by Lynette0 Comments

Although it may not feel like it, spring has arrived on Vancouver Island. The only way I know this is having spied the first tender spears of asparagus poking up in my patch.

Those of us who are into wild-crafting will now start checking our closely guarded wild asparagus turf at regular intervals.

The patches of asparagus on Vancouver Island estuaries and other marshy areas are actually naturalised domestic asparagus. We have the birds to thank for this particular bounty of nature. They eat the little red seed berries on local asparagus plants and fly somewhere else, leaving the seeds planted in their droppings. The asparagus will then flourish and spread if the area is marshy.

As soon as I spotted those little gems I immediately thought of hosting a foraged spring luncheon for some of my pals. Nettle soup to start, dandelion greens and chickweed salad to follow and roasted asparagus as the main course. I would flesh this meal out with some bread made from the Vancouver Island wheat flour I buy at True Grain Bakery in Cowichan Bay. This way the meal will almost classify as a 100 mile diet feast – if I could let go of my addiction to Italian olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

This local feast really ought to be accompanied by some good local wine, but there is a hitch.

Asparagus is one of the most difficult foods to pair with wine.

Both asparagus and brussel sprouts have organic compounds that contain sulfur which makes wine taste metallic and harsh. The smell of sulfur is not only unpleasant; it also mimics a wine making flaw. If you pair simply prepared asparagus with just any wine you will be left wondering if it is the wine or the asparagus that tastes bad.

Poor asparagus has a double whammy of hard to pair stuff in it. It is a very vegetal vegetable, thus its strong chlorophyll driven green flavour clash with a lot of wine. There is just too much vegetable in this vegetable!

One could simply smother the asparagus in cheese sauce and voila, wine friendly asparagus. This solution, however, eliminates all the lovely and unique qualities of my painstakingly foraged asparagus.

For a perfect pairing one would choose a dry pale sherry such as Tio Pepe from Spain. This Fino sherry is the driest, palest sherry and is served slightly chilled. Fresh and bright, with notes of lemon and green olive, Tio Pepe delivers flavours of almonds and yeast in every sip. The mouth-feel of this Fino sherry is quite round with a little bitter and salty finish.

For a perfect pairing one would choose a dry pale sherry such as Tio Pepe from Spain. This Fino sherry is the driest, palest sherry and is served slightly chilled. Fresh and bright, with notes of lemon and green olive, Tio Pepe delivers flavours of almonds and yeast in every sip. The mouth-feel of this Fino sherry is quite round with a little bitter and salty finish.

Another option is a zesty, dry white wine with lots of citrus and minerals.  However, if the asparagus is really sulfurous and clorophyl driven (as early spring asparagus can be), there is still a chance that the wine may end up tasting metallic and harsh.

So, does the almost 100 mile meal go out the window in preference for a perfectly paired asparagus dish or do I stick with my idea?

Tenacity is a virtue (they say) and mine is guiding me to stick with the almost 100 mile diet meal. A bottle of Blue Grouse Ortega from the Cowichan Valley is just the ticket and there are still a few bottles on the shelves at Lucky’s Liquor. Loaded with vivid citrus flavours, bone dry and rich in body, the steely minerality and herbal notes have as good a chance as any wine to stand up to the wily asparagus. Never the less, I will hedge my bet and top the asparagus with some toasted local hazelnuts to soften any unfriendly aspects of the dish!

 

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