Pairing wine with asparagus is like trying to dance a ballet routine to dubstep. You’re just asking for pain, but we suppose it could be fun if you like a challenge.
Asparagus is an ingredient that can destroy the taste of wine, it can make your favorite white taste metallic, it can make you opt for water. This Epicurious piece says it best: “Certain chemicals in asparagus can make your wine taste vegetal, grassy, or just plain rotten. No other ingredient, not even cheese or chocolate, is the target of such fear, disdain, and discussion. Asparagus has been likened to Kryptonite; it is the enemy, it ruins perfectly nice vino. But it’s too delicious to ignore entirely.”
Chef Curtis Stone’s Maude, which changes its menu monthly, is serving an asparagus tasting menu throughout April, so general manager and wine director Ben Aviram (formerly the sommelier at Alinea) had the unenviable task of pairing wine with the dishes. You can see the nine-course menu and pairings here.
And if you’re trying this at home, Aviram suggests you “stay away from big bold reds and oak-y whites.” There are many occasions for striking Bordeauxs or classic California Chardonnays, but an asparagus dinner is not one of them. Instead, go for un-oaked Chardonnays, or maybe a nice Austrian Gruner Veltiner. If you want red, Aviram points the way to Pinot Noir or Gamay, wines with lower tannins.
But don’t be afraid to have some fun. Maude’s pairing includes Alsatian sparkling wine, an “old, beautiful dry German Riesling” that’s far from the sweetness people might expect, and dessert wine. It also goes beyond wine with Fukucho Moon on the Water sake and Bohemia Lager. (“If you’re going to drink Mexican lager, it’s the best one by far.”)
“Last year, we had artichokes,” Aviram says, recalling another pairing adventure at Maude. “If you had a dozen wine people in a room, there would be a pretty healthy argument about which is worse. I’ve found asparagus more challenging than artichokes.”