White: Aspirino from Intrepid Wine Company; Verdicchio and Pigato.
Artichoke, along with asparagus, typically complicate wine pairings. In the case of artichoke, the chemical doing this business is cynarin. Cynarin lends artichokes their bitter quality just as it does to the amaro liqueur called Cynar.
Regardless which wine you ultimately choose, there are some important basics to understand when you shop. First, many Italian whites tend to have a bit of bitterness in their finish, classically from pressing the grapes hard enough to extract some tannins from the skins or seeds. This means many wines will naturally lend themselves to pairing with artichokes. Second, light, fresh and highly acidic wines tend to tackle the job best. This naturally leads to cooler climate wines. Steer clear of new oak (imagine vanilla trying to harmonize with bitter), and avoid reds because their tannins emphasize artichokes’ bitterness.
A few grape varieties I’ve written about recently will work well – Verdicchio and Pigato tops among them. A little-known and hard-to-find grape called Aspirino is a fine choice, too. The Intrepid Wine Company makes an interesting one. Like preparing an artichoke, it takes work to find it but it will surely be worth it! Aspirino comes from Campania. Though Campania is firmly part of Italy’s south, the high elevation at which Aspirino is grown makes it a cool climate wine. Aspirino flavors tend to be mineral and citrusy and not overly fruit-driven…perfect for artichokes!
Christy Canterbury, Wine Editor
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