Cheers to the Spears! Great wine pairings for asparagus

The team from Corker Outdoor, Award sponsor Jason Varney (Thomson, Snell & Passmore) & Eamonn Holmes

Spring has well and truly arrived. In the vineyard, tender green shoots are emerging on the vines – and it’s also British asparagus season.

Though prized as a delicacy since ancient times, asparagus is quite easy to grow, provided you’re forbearing since it typically takes three years from sowing to harvest. Traditionally the season runs from 23 April (this Saturday), St George’s Day, and runs through to the Summer Solstice on 21 June. This year, however, the first perky spears arrived around eight weeks earlier than usual. 


1. Must-try supermarket unoaked Austrian white

Specially Selected Grüner Veltliner 2020, Niederösterreich, Austria (£6.99, Aldi, 12.5%)

Two-thirds of Austria’s vineyards are planted with white grapes and it’s especially famous for dry, medium-plus acid white wines made from the loess-and-water-loving, thick-skinned Grüner Veltliner (GV), which accounts for around 30 per cent of all plantings, and Riesling. Nab this smart, unoaked and versatile – GV’s a great ‘sling it with everything’ option rendition from Niederösterreich, the largest of Austria’s wine regions for both production and exports, in the NE of the country, while you can. Great value from the Aldi buying team for a pure cocktail of white pepper, flowers (think orris root), asparagus and pears. The tell-tale peppery/ spicy aromatics come from rotundone, a key aroma compound found in the grape skins. It’s terrific with both white and green asparagus. I especially loved it with asparagus risotto and also lemony roasted asparagus with new potatoes and a pea salad. Prost! Not for the cellar.


2. Say ‘Salud’ to this pale, bone-dry, refined and complex single-vineyard fino sherry

Valdespino ‘Inocente’ Pago de Macharnudo NV Fino sherry, Spain (£8.50-£8.95, Lea & Sandeman & The Wine Society, 15%, 37.5cl)

Cracking value here for an outstanding 100% Palomino, single-vineyard fino sherry rarity from the calcium-carbonate-rich, ‘albariza’ white soils of the celebrated Macharnudo vineyard. Light bodied with low acidity, fino sherries have been ‘biologically’ aged in partially filled casks under a film of flor yeast which shields the wine from oxidation, whilst reducing glycerol levels (and thus body). This one’s super-refined, tangy, crisp, texturally delicate but also complex, with an average age of 10 years: think almonds, moss, sea salt, green apples and toasty yeast. A ludicrously low price tag for the wine world’s best-kept secret. Relish as soon as possible. One for white asparagus, griddled/steamed green asparagus with aioli/ hollandaise or grilled asparagus with romesco sauce/poached eggs. Of course, it’s also dreamy with a plate of ambrosial jamón ibérico! An open bottle should be drunk within two to three days. Gently chill and serve at 8°- 9°C (I recommend taking the bottle out of the fridge about ten minutes before serving).


3. A charming New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc to sip with the spears

Vavasour Sauvignon Blanc 2021, New Zealand (£10, Co-op, 13.5%)

Echoing its green, herbaceous flavours, Sauvignon Blanc is astounding with asparagus and ideal for spring. New Zealand has many world-class examples such as this classy offering from Marlborough, the largest producing region at around 30,000 ha (around 70% of the total producing area). Fresh and bright-fruited with spot-on green pepper, tropical fruit, tomato leaf and passionfruit pizzazz, this starry Sauvignon is a high-class account of a well-loved wine style with a reverb of rousing flavours on the finish. Excellent choice for asparagus and prawns/goat’s cheese or asparagus slathered in butter/a rich hollandaise sauce or with parmesan shavings. Plenty to enjoy here.


4. Bonjour to this refreshing organically produced dry Bordeaux white

Château Rioublanc Bordeaux Blanc 2021, France (£10.99, Vinceremos, 12%)

Situated in St Ciers d’Abzac, some 15 km north of Libourne in north-eastern Bordeaux, Château Rioublanc is an organically certified family estate dating back to the nineteenth century. Inherited from his father Edouard, who began working on the estate in 1963, it’s now run by owner-winemaker Philippe Carretero and his son, Paul. Grab its delicious medium-bodied, organic, zesty, pear, floral, grassy and citrus-spiked Bordeaux Blanc, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc (70%) and Sémillon (22%), topped up with Colombard. It’s fresh and instantaneously engages all the senses, presenting both decent length and a snappy, crisp finish. One for asparagus with fish, primavera risotto, grilled asparagus salad with lemon and feta or steamed/boiled asparagus served with a slick of melted butter/a lemony dressing. You could easily tuck this bright organic Bordeaux white under your arm and walk into any BYO restaurant (hello again Kitsu Sushi & Noodle Bar) and depart very content. À votre santé!



If you like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc try early-ripening Bacchus, which is redolent of hedgerows and nettles. Try a bottle of Cornwall’s Camel Valley 2021 (£15.50, The Wine Society) with asparagus served with white fish/goat’s cheese


I’d plump for Belgian tripel having recently enjoyed a saintly swallow of Brussels’ Brasserie de la Senne’s dry and muscular ‘Jambe-de-Bois’ with local asparagus bought from Locality on Tunbridge Wells’ Camden Road (£4, Fuggles Bottle Shop/10% off 12+ units, 8%, 330ml). A treat for asparagus and Pommes Parisienne


Follow James on Twitter @QuixoticWine

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