British asparagus season usually kicks off on or around April 23, St George’s Day, but thanks to a relatively mild winter, and early picking varieties it is upon us already – and hurrah for that. Which wine to drink with this most welcome of spring vegetables though? I’ve been merrily matching wine and British asparagus for years and really there are only two rules to follow: 1) never try a red, as its jammy flavours and tannins, even in the softest of examples, clash with the grassy green spears, and 2) stick to sauvignon blanc and you can’t go far wrong.
What is so brilliant about sauv blanc and asparagus? I think it’s the crisp citrus of this grape and a slight greenness in some examples – sauv blanc can taste grassy, sappy, leafy, which goes well with this vegetable. Simple, crisp Loire Valley versions are best with plain boiled or steamed spears and can take a lemony dressing too, while richer, more juicy New World examples are better if you slathering on butter or coating with hollandaise sauce.
And for those who want to be more adventurous with food matching, there are other whites which work well too. Dry Italian whites like Gavi, as long as they are not too floral, Spain’s verdejo and godello, English bacchus and the lightest of chardonnays (so Chablis) are also ones to stock up on for the glorious asparagus weeks that run through to late June.