What to drink with green vegetables
May 20th, 2013
01:45 PM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

Spring is in full flower - I know this, because I am sneezing continually - and in addition to the burgeoning boughs and all come asparagus, snap peas, watercress, spinach, artichokes, you name it. Basically, everything’s gone green.

With that, if you’re a wine lover, there’s also the question: What wines go best with green vegetables?
  
The truth is, in a lot of cases, don’t worry: The specific vegetable doesn’t matter so much as how you’re cooking it. For instance, broccoli in cheese sauce is a lot richer and more substantial than steamed broccoli with a squeeze of lemon; ditto a salad with a creamy Roquefort dressing versus one with a splash of balsamic vinegar and oil.

In general, for richer dishes, choose more substantial wines (Rhône whites, Chardonnays, Viogniers); for lighter dishes, lighter wines (Pinot Grigio, Vinho Verde and dry Rieslings are good possibilities).
 
Another broadly applicable rule is that acidity likes acidity. In other words, if you have a tart vinaigrette on a salad, choose a tart wine (Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño, Muscadet) to go with it. Food flavors tend to dominate wine flavors rather than vice versa - it’s like Fifty Shades of Grey for your tongue - so a vinaigrette or sharply lemony sauce will obliterate something like a soft, rich Chardonnay.

There are a few specific pitfalls lurking around, too. Foods that have a bitter edge (endive, radicchio, and so on) tend to intensify the perceived bitterness of tannins in wine. In other words, avoid big, powerful reds.

Asparagus (and cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli) contain sulfur compounds, again not great with red wine, tending to make it taste metallic. If you want asparagus with your Bordeaux, though, grilling the asparagus will help (or slathering it in some sort of creamy sauce).
 
And then there is the artichoke. Artichokes just hate wine. They contain a compound called cynarin, which messes with your taste buds and makes wine taste weirdly sweet. Cooking them with other ingredients will lessen this problem. If you’re dead set on steamed artichokes and wine tonight, go for a wine that’s far from sweet—ultra-brut or zero dosage Champagne for instance, which has a steely, intense character.
 
Finally, when in doubt about a vegetable dish and a wine to go with, go for the secret weapon of veggie-wine pairing: Grüner Veltliner. This Austrian white variety’s crisp, lightly herbal, slightly peppery character was made to go with green vegetables. And as the grape has become more popular, more and more affordable, high-quality bottlings have come to the U.S. Names to look for include Berger, Salomon Undhof, Stadt Krems, Schloss Gobelsberg, Forstreiter, Zantho, and Domäne Wachau, among others.

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Previously:

How to eat an artichoke

Tough pairing: asparagus and wine

Ramps, fiddleheads, fava beans and other spring vegetables about which people are freaking out

What to sip with your salad

Five Thoughts on Spring/Early Summer in the South as a Cook

© 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

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Filed under: Artichokes • Asparagus • Content Partner • Food and Wine • Sip • Spring Vegetables • Vegetables • Wine


soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. http://www.ivlproducts.com/Superfoods/A … lement.axd   

    Thanks for the info. I want to know some recipes of green drinks to be made at home.

    September 9, 2013 at 6:25 am |
  2. Monica @ Local Italian Plate

    Fantastic article on how food attributes combine with wine chemistry and create specific tastes. Now that is food science. Never knew that asparagus doesn't go well with reds unless it's cooked a certain way. Valuable information for my food writing. Thank you.

    May 21, 2013 at 11:29 am |
  3. Steve

    What to drink with vegetables? How about water?

    May 21, 2013 at 5:04 am |
  4. Total Wino

    Night Train and Collard Greens

    May 20, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
  5. Ann

    Actually, although I love wine - the best thing in the world to drink with a steamed artichoke is a glass of milk!

    Steam your artichoke with a little garlic and lemon, then dip the leaves in butter. The next sip of milk will be the best milk you've ever tasted. Weird, but try it.

    May 20, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • Weeds

      Not just milk. Butter milk.

      May 21, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
  6. Fine dining

    BBQ and Budweiser

    May 20, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
  7. Archibald

    The answer to all of these questions is moonshine.

    May 20, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • corpsman

      +1!

      May 20, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
  8. Lou

    Cooked veggies lose some of their nutrients, using alcohol depleats vitamins. This article is not about nutrition, it's about social eating. Jdizzle, you got that right, water. Some of these CNN linked articles are written in the interest of companies and probably by comppany-paid shills, selling products...and either lying, distorting or insinuating to make bad food choices for their profits.

    May 20, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • Fine dining

      Cooking vegetables properly make the vitamins more accessible for metabolism.

      May 20, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      That is entirely incorrect. There are no shills, no company ties, no lying, no compensation for product mentions. It's simply not how we operate and I don't especially like that characterization.

      May 20, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
    • Steve

      You nailed that one.

      May 21, 2013 at 5:05 am |
  9. I Ain't No Vegan

    I Coulda had a V8 !!

    May 20, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • Bill D.

      I actually just finished a V8, though I drink the low-sodium V8

      May 20, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
  10. mollydough

    "it's like 50 Shades of Grey for your tongue" stop. Just stop. Actually, I stopped reading the article at that point. Never use that metaphor again.

    May 20, 2013 at 10:00 am |
  11. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    Water is always a safe choice.

    May 20, 2013 at 9:30 am |
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