English Wine & British Asparagus Pairing

This week (and St Georges Day specifically) saw the official beginning of British Asparagus Season. This quintessentially British vegetable is not only packed with lots of natural goodness, but is also extremely versatile in cooking. It is however notorious for its challenging wine-pairing potential. Prompted by discussions with two of Hampshire’s finest wine producers; Danebury Vineyards and Exton Park, I decided to set about the challenge of finding four dishes to pair with their delicious wines. The result is a series of dishes that not only let the asparagus be the star ingredient, but also form a superb partner for each of the wines I have selected to pair them with.

Asparagus in Hampshire Lomo

• Olive Oil
• 10 British Asparagus Spears
• 10 Slices Hampshire Lomo
   (Available from A Pinch of Salt)
• Orange (for zesting)

Method:

  1. Lightly brush the asparagus in olive oil
  2. Wrap each spear in a piece of lomo
  3. Grill for 8-10 minutes until crisp
  4. Serve on a board with a light shaving of orange zest

Pair with Exton Park Pinot Meunier Rosé

For this pure and distinctive wine I wanted to pair it with something that not only let the asparagus sing, but also something with a real savoury kick. I went with an English twist on the classic of asparagus wrapped in pancetta, but substituted the meat for a fine Hampshire Lomo from A Pinch of Salt.

The crispy salty pork lomo and the clean earthiness of the British Asparagus was already a sublime pairing, but together they really help to emphasise the cranberry and raspberry fruit flavours of the Meunier.

That hint of orange zest adds further intrigue to pairing, bringing out hints of nut and spice on the finish of the Rosé.

For a ‘dish’ that takes ten minutes to prepare, this is a excellent and effortless pairing. 

Where to Buy: Exton Park (£40.00)

Asparagus Risotto Recipe

• Olive Oil
• 1 Garlic Cloves 1 Echalion Shallot (Chopped Finely)
• 200g Risotto Rice
• 200ml English White Wine
• 600ml Vegetable Stock
• 125g fresh British Asparagus, sliced thinly, top spears reserved
• 20g Butter
• 50-70g Parmesan (or English Hard Cheese)

Method:

  1. Firstly cut off the top 2cm of asparagus and boil for 3 minutes. Remove to ice cold water to preserve colour
  2. Add 1 tbsp olive oil to shallow pan and fry the shallot & garlic over a low heat for 1-2 minutes
  3. Add risotto rice to pan and stir into the oil for a minute or two
  4. Add English Wine and cook into the rice
  5. Add the stock a ladle full at a time until it soaks into the rice. Continue until rice is cooked
  6. Add the sliced asparagus, butter and cheese, stir and cook for a further 2-3 minutes
  7. Season to taste and serve with reserved asparagus spears on top

Pair with Exton Park Blanc de Blancs 2011

The lack of citrus in the risotto lets the fresh citrus acidity from the Blanc de Blancs cut through the creamy salty rice.

The savoury green character of the asparagus really comes through in this simple but elegant risotto, and is matched perfectly with the mineral and slightly savoury qualities of the wine.

The purity of this wine - unoaked with no malolactic fermentation is - what makes it the perfect partner for the salty nutty cheese and the striking freshness of the young green asparagus. 

This is perhaps my favourite pairing of all four of the dishes.

Where to Buy: Exton Park (£40.00)

Asparagus Soup Recipe

• 20g Butter
• 300g British Asparagus
• 2 Garlic Cloves, 2 Echalion Shallots (Chopped Finely)
• 60g Spinach
• 600ml vegetable stock

Method:

  1. Cook the asaparagus tips in butter for a couple of minutes until tender, but still green and crunchy, keep aside.
  2. Chop the remaining asparagus, shallots and garlic and fry for 10 minutes until soft.
  3. Approx 5 minutes into the frying, add a glass of dry English white wine to help to soften and bind all of the flavours together.
  4. Add 600ml fresh vegetable stock and 60g of Spinach and bring to the boil.
  5. Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth, add a little butter for texture and season accordingly.
  6. Serve with the asparagus tips on top and with freshly baked bread.

Pair with Danebury Madeleine Angevine 2013

With its intensely green character both in taste and colour, asparagus soup is not an easy pairing and needs a crisp fresh wine full of citrus character to work.

Step in Danebury’s Madeleine Angevine. After our Mad Ange tasting a few months ago, we discovered that the grape was a truly exceptional food pairing wine thanks to its striking acidity and citrus freshness.

The Danebury excels here; the strikingly clean profile and delicate mineral and herbal textures compliment the pure expression of asparagus in the soup.

Where to Buy: Danebury Vineyards (£12.00)

Asparagus Tart Recipe

• 150g British Asparagus
• 4 sheets Filo Pastry
• 50g Ricotta Cheese
• 25g parmesan
• 1 Shallot (finely chopped) • 2 eggs
• A bunch of Parsley (finely chopped)
• 4 pieces Hampshire Lomo (finely chopped)
• Zest of a lemon

Method:

  1. Pre heat oven to 180ºC. Fry shallot with a little olive oil until soft.
  2. Bring a pan of water to boil and cook the asparagus for 2 minutes. Remove and immediately immerse in ice cold water.
  3. Chop the asparagus finely, reserving the top third of each spear. Whisk 1 egg and mix in the chopped asparagus, ricotta, parmesan and lomo. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Brush filo pastry squares with egg yolk and then place 2-3 layers into individual tart pans. Spoon 2 tablespoons of filling into it each tart and place two asparagus spears on top.
  5. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes depending on size of tart.

Pair with Danebury Schonburger 2014

Danbury’s wonderfully aromatic Schonburger is the perfect pairing to creamier dishes thanks to its slightly off-dry character.

The richness of the ricotta and hard cheese in the dish integrates wonderfully with the clean green asparagus flavours. The hints of salty meaty pork pair wonderfully with that slightly sweeter nature of the wine.

The slight citrus fruit zing of the wine helps to compliment the slight hints of lemon in the tart, whilst the layers of flaky filo and rich creamy filling sit wonderfully with the asparagus.

With Thanks To

A big thanks to the producers that provided us with samples and input on this feature:

Danebury Vineyards
Exton Park Vineyard
A Pinch of Salt
BBC Food (a source of inspiration for recipe ideas)

John Mobbs

Founder of GreatBritishWine.com, John has been a prolific user on wine rating app Vivino for the last couple of years. Now a self appointed Great British Wine ambassador and with a mission to explore all corners of the UK to uncover the best producers and most exciting wines.

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