The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

How Should You Toast Your Artichoke?

Posted on | March 16, 2015 | Written by Janice Cable | No Comments

artichokes_bkgrdIt’s National Artichoke Heart Day. A member of the thistle family, artichokes are delicious, if sometimes prickly. I’m a big fan of their mealy, rubbery, fibrous texture, and their slightly sweet, herbaceous flesh that’s reminiscent of fennel. Rarely have I encountered an artichoke I haven’t enjoyed eating. I like them small and fried, big and steamed, chilled with hollandaise, hearted and pickled. I like them mashed into tapenade, stuffed with breadcrumbs, barbecued in the Spanish style, even turned into liqueur, as they are in Cynar, an aperitif made by Campari.

I love artichokes, but they are notoriously difficult to pair with wine. For one thing, artichokes contain cynarin, a compound that makes food taste sweet, and putting them with red wine makes the wine taste weirdly metallic. Like green beans and asparagus, artichokes can be the death of wines. But, as the adage goes, what grows together goes together, and, from Rome to Sicilia, artichokes are a mainstay of Italian cooking.

I turned the question over to IWM’s authorities to see how they handle the thorny issue of pairing artichokes and wines.

Francesco Vigorito:

Sardinia is big into artichokes, so maybe a Vermentio di Galura for white, or you could also go for a Punica if you’re looking for a red. If you do floured fried baby artichokes with a squeeze of lemon, then a sparkler to cut through the fry would be nice. Maybe something with a good fruitiness to it like the De Conciliis Selim—the slight sweetness in the wine should cut the artichoke quite nicely.

David Gwo:

​Veggies are tough to pair because bitter notes can be present and fruit-driven wines can accentuate that bitterness. Grüner Veltliner works well with vegetables and vegetarian dishes because the wines inherently possess “grassy” notes that blend with green veggies like artichokes. In addition, the wine’s minerality and cracked white pepper notes add an extra dimension of complexity to the pairing. Other options could include less fruit-driven rosés, but, typically, reds aren’t going to work and neither are very fruit-driven whites.

Crystal Edgar:

As a rule of thumb with wine and food pairings, the stronger the acid in the food, the more challenging the pairing. Vegetables like artichokes, asparagus spinach and other bitter greens are rather acidic but can be tamed by adding sweetness and/or richness, which helps to mute the acidity. Without going to sweet on the spectrum, I would recommend Pinot Gris from Alsace or Oregon, Friulano from Italy, Grüner Veltliner from Austria or another weighty white with some residual sweetness.

Garrett Kowalsky:

Pairing artichokes with wine is always a difficult task. Many times I opt for other beverages, but that is not always an option for my clients. My suggestion is to pick a high acid white with little to no oak. A bottle like that will be less likely to be thrown off by the strong flavors in the food. Think Sauvignon Blanc, or if you really prefer Chardonnay, then lean towards the wines from Chablis. Finally, don’t forget some of the delightful bottlings from Italy like Verdicchio and Vermentino.

John Camacho Vidal:

I have played around with different wines to pair with artichokes and have found that a very dry, high acid wine or a Fino Sherry with floral notes always does well. I’m also a big fan of orange wines, and I think they pair great with artichokes. I suggest clients they try their favorite artichoke dish with Gravner anfora white. Gravner’s oxidative quality mixed with the wine’s fruit will really bring the flavors together.

Emery Long:

Emery Long offers a recipe along with his wine pairing.

Artichokes are one of my favorite vegetables to prepare and serve. They provide a wonderful combination of savory, bitter, and earthy flavors. The tender artichoke heart is a delicacy as each plant only produces a few buds per plant and takes a full season to bring to fruition. One of the tragedies in cooking them are that most cooks discard most of the plant and keep only the tender heart, yielding only half of a serving—and the prickly spines hurt for days after piercing hands and fingers.

In an effort to utilize the entire vegetable and make the pain worth it, I find it very rewarding to save the trimmings and soak them in acidulated water, then put the trim through a food processor. Take the pulped artichokes and place them in a pressure cooker and submerge them in cool water, then cook for about 35-40 minutes to produce a delicate artichoke broth. Strain this broth, and poach the artichoke hearts delicately in this broth both to impart more flavor to the artichoke heart and re-enforce the broth.

Now to put the vegetable to use. I would begin by gently sweating a handful of sliced onions in a pan on low heat. Once the onions are translucent, add the poached reserved artichoke hearts to give them a bit of color. Then add the broth to the pan and gently bring down to a low heat being careful to not overcook the artichoke. In a separate pan sear a trout filet skin side up, add a whole clove of garlic and a hearty sprig of thyme to the pan. When the skin begins to crisp, minding the garlic not burning, add a small amount of butter to the pan to release the skin of the fish. Take the seared fish and put the crispy skin facing up and the flesh down in the pan with onions, artichoke hearts, and artichoke broth. Gently simmer the fish in the broth until fully cooked through.

Gently place the cooked artichoke hearts and onions in the bottom of a shallow bowl, rest the trout on top of the artichokes and gently spoon the delicious artichoke broth over the fish and garnish with a piece of crispy prosciutto and finely minced parsley.

I would pair this spring dish with the unique Villa Sparina 2013 Gavi di Gavi. This delicious Piemontese wine has a beautiful balance of bright acidity and floral aromatics. The minerality in the wine will complement the savory artichoke hearts; the acidity will meld with the flavor and aroma of the broth; and the accent of the crispy prosciutto will enhance the texture of the crispy trout skin and contrast the fresh and dry finish of the wine. Villa Sparina has been producing the Cortese grape for centuries and I wouldn’t be surprised if it isn’t frequently enjoyed with the regal artichoke.


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