Wine and Walnuts

A blog about eating, drinking, cooking and reading in the not so Deep South

Ode to Asparagus


Ah yes, Spring is here.  And one way we know this, besides this insanely gorgeous weather we’ve been having lately, is the appearance of asparagus. Lovely, delicious asparagus, one of the few vegetables I actually eat with gusto.

The May issue of Bon Appétit is what got me all fired up to get this vegetable into my shopping cart, in my oven, and on my plate, with its asparagus recipes from Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer of the Canal House Cooking series of seasonal cookbooks. 

After buying it, I toyed with making asparagus risotto, shaved asparagus with parmesan vinaigrette or asparagus wrapped in prosciutto.  What I landed on after all was roasted asparagus – simple, yet deeply satisfying.

So satisfying, in fact, that the night I made it it’s all I had for dinner, and all I wanted.

(Look for wine pairing information below the recipe.)

Recipe:  Roasted Asparagus (from May 2011 issue of Bon Appétit)


• 24 large asparagus spears (about 2 lb.)
• Extra virgin olive oil
• Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• Aged balsamic vinegar
• Parmesan, for shaving


• Preheat oven to 400 degrees
• Arrange asparagus spears in a single layer on a large baking sheet
• Drizzle oil over asparagus and turn to coat. Season with salt and pepper.
• Roast, turning occasionally, until lightly browned and just tender, 18-20 minutes.
• Transfer asparagus to a platter.
• To serve, drizzle vinegar over hot asparagus and use a vegetable peeler to shave Parmesan over the spears.


• You don’t have to peel the asparagus.  I did because the first time I follow a specific recipe, I do precisely what’s called for, as here.

(In fact, when I told a friend of mine who has mad kitchen skills and is a trained restaurant professional that I peeled the stuff, she said, “What?!?!  What’dja do that for?”  Good question, because peeling each tender little stalk probably added at least 30 minutes to the prep time. Just a little tip from me to you.)


Wine Pairings for Asparagus

OK, here’s the deal.  Asparagus has a reputation for being difficult to pair with wine (though not as notorious as artichokes – wowsa! – but we’ll cover that pairing another day), and I’ve always bought into the notion.  It can be more challenging than other foods to pair, that’s a fact, but there are wines that can work with this wonderful vegetable.

Asparagus contains something called methionine, apparently, and this, along with the vegetable’s natural grassy flavor, can makes wines taste really vegetal or just . . . weird.  Asparagus tends to make everything you drink with it taste green.

In general, you want to stay away from wines that have a lot of oak and a lot of tannin.  Chardonnay, for example, would be a bad match.  It’ll taste really vegetal and over-the-top oaky if paired with asparagus. Tannic Cabernet Sauvignon is another wine you want to stay away from here.  Also avoid wines with a touch of sweetness, as the asparagus will tend to accentuate that quality in the wine.

A lot depends on the preparation. If you grill asparagus, or roast it as I did, the vegetable will lose its bitter edge and be an easier pairing partner. In this case you could serve it with a Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Grigio. I like Sauvignon Blanc because it also has green, grassy flavors that make for a companionable match.

Since I roasted it and dressed it with balsamic vinegar and shaved parmesan, I could have paired it with a light red wine, such as Dolcetto, or even Beaujolais.  If you grill it and serve it with a creamy dressing, Pinot Noir would be a nice match; the char character from the grilling works really well with a light-bodied, earthy Pinot.

My philosophy is drink what you like, so really there’s no need to get hung up on finding the perfect match — the “perfect” match is whichever wine you like best. 

Now, I’m off to the Farmers’ Market this morning to get more asparagus. (I’m not just saying that, I really am. Going to the Farmers Market. To get more asparagus. Right now.)

Bon Appétit!

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About The Author

Kimberly Houston


2 Responses to “Ode to Asparagus”

  1. Alexandra says:

    What an interesting article! I really want to try your suggestions next time I buy asparagus, and the recipe sounds just delicious.
    I have forever been on the quest to find a wine that goes with my all time favorite food, artichokes! Up to now, I have learned to eat my artichokes first, then have wine with the rest of dinner. So I do look forward to that article when you write it.
    Thanks for sharing this great advice!

  2. Hi Alexandra,

    Thanks so much for your comment!

    Yes, artichokes can be a wine-pairing challenge, because they tend to make everything you drink with them taste sweeter. Sauvignon Blanc could work — it may just taste less tart and more fruity. Gruner Veltliner is a varietal not alot of people have heard of, but it’s a terrific white wine that goes well with all kinds of veggies!
    I would say in general just to avoid opening a special and/or pricey wine if you’re having artichokes, and just go with an everyday wine you enjoy. : )


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