Yup – there’s asparagus again!

Asparagus with Convergent Sauvignon Blanc from Two Rivers Wines from Marlborough New Zealand

How did we long for it after this supercooled spring: Our favorite vegetable, the wonderful German asparagus, especially the white, because green asparagus can be obtained almost all year round from more distant regions. Overjoyed, I recently spotted the first Schrobenhausen asparagus while shopping, although not yet a bargain at the beginning of the season, but that doesn’t matter now. He has to be on the table. Immediately and absolutely!

We love it, whether as asparagus risotto, asparagus soup, asparagus salad, asparagus casserole, asparagus with salmon or steak – to name just a few of the countless ways in which the beloved noble vegetable can be prepared. We personally, my family and I, always prefer it classic for the beginning of the season: steamed, while we prepare the asparagus in the steamer, which works excellently. It lasts only a little longer than in the pot, about 40 minutes, but remains wonderfully natural and aromatic with its fine earthy and slightly bitter notes. In addition, there are fine small potatoes, diced boiled juice ham from pork and beef, and – very fundamentally important – a nice creamy sauce hollandaise, preferably homemade. A little tip to parents of little asparagus enthusiastic children: Let the children try green asparagus. It has less bitter substances than the white, and a pleasantly nutty taste. That worked for our children, so we were able to turn them into little asparagus fans.

So, now comes the most important thing: Which wine goes well with asparagus? One thing seems to be set for sure: white wine to asparagus, of course. Or is that not so certain? Does red wine also go well with asparagus? I think it always depends on what is served with asparagus, because it rarely comes as a solo number on the plate. In the appropriate combination, of course, a red wine also fits.

Steak with grilled asparagus

Let’s take the asparagus with steak variant, which is popular right now in the beginning of the barbecue season. A red wine goes well with it. However, it is important that it is not too tannin-rich and barrique-heavy red, because that in turn would overlay the delicate asparagus taste. On the other hand, it must be able to withstand the salty and protein-rich components of the steak.

Here I recommend our EastDell Gamay Noir 2016 from the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario/Canada.
A finely fruity, not too heavy red wine with relatively little and very soft tannin, which creates the ideal solidarity between steak and asparagus. Tip: Serve it slightly chilled.

Another small note, where we are already on the subject of grilling: Asparagus from the grill is also a fine thing. You can grill the asparagus, whether white or greener, also very well. Many people don’t even know that – by the way, I didn’t know for a long time. I wrap it in aluminum foil, add some melted butter, a pinch of salt and a small spoonful of sugar and grill it on medium heat by turning it several times.

Asparagus, Steak and EastDell Gamay Noir at Cellardoor24
Asparagus, Steak and EastDell Gamay Noir at Cellardoor24

Let’s go back to the more conventional variant of asparagus wines: white wine with asparagus. This variant is familiar to most asparagus lovers. But which one fits best? Riesling? Sauvignon Blanc? Chardonnay? Does it necessarily have to be a German wine with German asparagus? At this point at the latest, the spirits are divided.

Asparagus with ham, potatoes and hollandaise sauce

Well, even with this question, it depends again on what is served with asparagus. First of all, let’s stick to the classic variant I described above with potatoes, ham and hollandaise sauce. The good sauce is not a lightweight in terms of calories and fat, so you can already tolerate a wine with a little acidity. You should be a little careful with too much aroma, because that could crush the delicate asparagus taste. Since people in Austria traditionally prefer Grüner Veltliner for asparagus, I have a very special wine recommendation here: Surprise: A Grüner Veltliner. But now it comes: Not from Austria, because you already know it sufficiently.

Asparagus with beef juice ham, carrot and hollandaise sauce accompanied by the white wine Kühl Grüner Veltliner from Longview Vineyards, Adelaide Hills Australia
Asparagus with beef juice ham, carrot and hollandaise sauce with Kühl Grüner Veltliner

I recommend the Longview Kühl Grüner Veltliner 2018 from the Adelaide Hills in South Australia for the classic asparagus dish. Longview started experimenting with this exotic grape variety from an Australian point of view over 10 years ago and has achieved considerable success with it. The very slightly earthy aroma and the light “bitterl” correspond perfectly with these taste notes of the white asparagus. The wine has a good acid structure, which stands up to the hollandaise sauce and the salty ham. The slight pepper note fits very well with this. At the same time, however, it does not have too much of floral aromas and flatters the dish as a whole so excellently.

Asparagus risotto

So, now I’m really in asparagus fever and thinking about which asparagus dishes we could cook next. Maybe a nice asparagus risotto? We also like it. And stirring risotto always has something meditative for me. For the risotto we usually use white and green asparagus. Not least because this is where the children come into play again, who then only fish out the green one and distribute the white generously on the parental plates. A table custom that is otherwise not welcome, but here is an exception in which this nonsense of “cherry-picking” is benevolently overlooked. Is not completely altruistic at this point. As already mentioned, green asparagus is actually available all year round. But particularly good, delicate and above all freshly harvested you usually get only at asparagus time in the form of German asparagus. I especially like the green baby asparagus, where you don’t even have to cut off the ends, because they are always tender and never even a hint of woody. It’s sometimes available at our local sales stand and I always grab it.

Back to the asparagus risotto. For this, the white and green asparagus are cut into small pieces and blanched briefly in vegetable broth. The asparagus cooking time differs slightly, depending on the size and thickness of the pieces and the white always needs a little longer. For the risotto, first spring onions are sweated, then the round grain rice is added and after a short frying the whole thing is deglazed with a little white wine. Then the asparagus decoction is gradually added with constant stirring, so that the rice can always absorb the liquid just. That’s the most important thing about risotto: Not everything at once! Relative to the end, when the rice already has a good consistency, I then add the blanched asparagus pieces. The whole thing is seasoned with salt and pepper and only at the end a little grated Parmesan and a piece of cold butter stirred in for the optimal consistency and creaminess. Fine! But which wine?

The asparagus risotto is not a lightweight in terms of calories, so we need here again a wine that can keep up with good acidity, but is not too dominant in its fruitiness.

Here I recommend the EastDell Unoaked Chardonnay 2015 from the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario/Canada, which, as the name suggests, is not matured in oak barrels, but in steel tanks. As much as we may otherwise love beautifully integrated barrique notes at Chardonnays, these mostly dominant roasted and wood aromas in combination with asparagus have lost nothing in my opinion. Because the asparagus would be difficult to get on the other hand and that would be a pity. The EastDell Unoaked Chardonnay has quite fruity aromas, but to such an extent that they do not compete with the asparagus. In addition, its mineral, salty note corresponds excellently with the noble vegetables. On the palate it is nice and creamy, which is a result of the so-called malolactic secondary fermentation. This in turn makes it a harmonious play of the creamy risotto consistency.

Asparagus flambée

Where I’m already on the road in terms of asparagus recipes and which wine goes well with asparagus, I just remember one of my personal favorite recipes, the asparagus flame cake. Totally simple, but exquisite! Again, I usually use the proven combination of white and green asparagus. The asparagus, after cutting it into small pieces, can either be blanched briefly or not, depending on how soft or al dente you prefer it. For the tarte flambée, we always make a thin, simple dough from flour, water, yeast and salt, which is known from pizza dough. Ok, I admit, I’ve also reached for the ready-made dough in the refrigerated shelf, if there was not enough time for yeast dough, which you have to let go for a while. You can also do it, no broken leg. The dough, whether homemade or prefabricated, is then first smeared, salted and peppered with either crème fraiche, sour cream or a mixture of both and then topped with leek rings, alternatively spring onions, and the asparagus pieces. I always spray some olive oil on top of it so that the vegetables are cooked quickly. The whole thing is baked briefly at high temperature best in convection until the dough is nice and crispy and ready! Completely uncomplicated. And now? Now it comes back, the question of the right wine. Since the tarte flambée is known to come from Alsace, I prefer a wine style that also comes from the region: a rich Pinot Gris, german Pinot Gris, which should not have too much residual sugar.

My recommendation for tarte flambée is the Whitehaven Marlborough Pinot Gris 2017 from New Zealand’s South Island. This expressive Pinot Gris from New Zealand’s largest and most famous growing area Marlborough has a wonderful mouth-filling and creamy texture and therefore offers an optimal counterpart to the crispy tarte flambée. Its fine acidity hits just the right measure to harmonize with the asparagus. This also applies to the fruity, but not too prominent flavors.

Asparagus cream soup

Let’s come to even more liquid in addition to the wine: You can also use the “waste product” bowls well to prepare an asparagus soup from bowls. To do this, it is best to cook them out right away. If you have steamed the asparagus in the water anyway, you can also make the asparagus soup from asparagus water. It is best to keep a few sticks back and add small pieces of asparagus to the soup. To do this, butter is first melted, flour is added and this is deglazed with the asparagus broth (and, if desired, with a little white wine). Otherwise, season as desired and cream in. Very simple but a wonderful appetizer or small meal.
Another question: Do you actually drink wine with the soup? Counter-question: Why not? Everything can, nothing has to. The asparagus cream soup is relatively rich when prepared with butter and cream. That’s why a fine white wine with fresh acidity is quite good.

I can recommend the Longview Kühl Grüner Veltliner 2018 from the Adelaide Hills in South Australia for soup as well as for the “classic dish” as described above, which in my opinion also cuts an excellent figure for soup with its spiciness and fine acidity.

Fish with asparagus

Now you need a tip for fish with asparagus, so that all fish fans are also taken into account: Asparagus with fish is also a delicious combination. Both green or white asparagus fit here. Personally, I always find the combination of salmon with asparagus and a fine lime sauce, also lime hollandaise, quite excellent. Instead of salmon, you can also take various other, very well harmonized fish varieties, such as pikeperch or cod. The salmon is best fried or grilled, the asparagus can be prepared, steamed, grilled or baked in the oven as desired. In addition, you can serve a few carrots and the sauce. For the latter, you can take a classic hollandaise sauce recipe as a base and refine it with a little pepper, lemon juice and lemon zest. If you prefer it a little more calorie-conscious, prepare the whole thing on the basis of a vegetable broth with just a little butter or cream and the lemon. Contrary to my other recommendations for asparagus dishes, a wine with a little more acidity goes well with this asparagus dish with the sour lemony sauce. Because a low-acid wine would look bland and stale. That’s why you can grab a Sauvignon Blanc here. However, it is important that the wine does not have too exposed aromas, so for once I would not take Sauvignon Blanc from the New Zealand region of Marlborough, at least not a completely fresh one, although I find these wines otherwise extremely appealing. Here it may be something in the more mineral direction.

My recommendation is the OHAU Wines Woven Stone Sauvignon Blanc 2018 from the young wine-growing region of Ohau on New Zealand’s North Island. Although this wine has a strong acid structure, since it has matured for almost 3 years, it is no longer quite as in the foreground as with a fresh Sauvignon Blanc, but beautifully integrated. The aromas are fruity fresh with a mineral, pebble component. A very good accompaniment to the fish-asparagus-lemon sauce combination.

But riesling with asparagus?

The attentive reader has certainly noticed that I usually recommend wines with appealing, but not too dominant fruit note and fine acidity to the asparagus recipes. Even though I am personally a very big friend of the aroma grape variety Riesling, I am always a bit hesitant to combine this grape variety with asparagus. Too great is simply the danger that the very outstanding aromas compete too strongly with the asparagus and the pimple acidity on the palate is too much of a good thing. But there are also many proponents of Riesling to asparagus who consider this to be a particularly good combination. If you reach for the asparagus dish to the Riesling but in my opinion you should pay attention to the fact that it is a specimen with not too dominant, well buffered acidity and a relatively restrained aroma for Riesling.

I wish you a nice asparagus season with a good appetite and good thirst!

Your asparagus fan Daniela Dünckelmeyer

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