Artichokes and wine: a match made in hell?

Globe artichokes are a delicious summertime treat, but they contain a chemical called cynarin which can make the wine you’re drinking taste oddly sweet, flabby and dull.

But with the right choice you can still create the perfect pairing. Just heed these 5 simple rules!

1. Dry as a bone and ramp up the acid

The presence of cynarin can enhance even a trace of sweetness, so the safest bet is a crisp, bone dry white wine with high acidity and no oak influence, as the cynarin will latch onto any sweet-tasting notes in the oak, making the wine taste un-structured and sluggish. This is especially true when serving your globe artichokes simply boiled or steamed, as there are no other flavours present to mitigate the effects of the cynarin. The classic French way of serving boiled globe artichoke with vinaigrette makes pairing even trickier, as you’ll need a wine whose acidity is higher than that of the dressing.

Try a high acid, mineral Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire like Domaine Fouassier Clos Paradis Sancerre or an Austrian Gruner Veltliner like Mantlerhof Gruner Veltliner Weitgasse.

2. The Fino things in life

If you’re serving your globe artichoke raw in a salad or slowly braised, the strength of the cynarin will actually be less apparent than when boiled or steamed. This means you can afford to go a little richer with your wine pairing, but should still avoid any trace of sweetness.

Try a delicious, bone dry Fino Sherry like this one from Bodegas Alvear.

3. Fat is your friend

Frying or braising your globe artichoke in oil, serving it with a rich hollandaise or in a creamy risotto will all help counteract the cynarin and add richness to the dish, making wine pairing that little bit easier. While you should still stick to the dry and high acid rule, you can start to go a little rounder and fuller with other flavours.

Dry Italian whites can work well, like this Marmora Vermentino from Sardinia or this Roero Arneis from Vietti in Piedmont.

4. Time to get more daring…

If your artichokes are being served in a tomato-based sauce, in a meaty ragout or with garlicky or spicy mayonnaise, you can afford to get a bit more daring… high acid, low tannin Italian reds, fuller-bodied dry rosés or light-bodied reds from the Loire can all pair very nicely.

Try a Barbera from Piedmont like this one from Vietti or a dry Sancerre Rosé like this one from Domaine Eric Louis.

5. If in doubt, break out the fizz

A good, brut Champagne can be paired with pretty much everything, and makes any eating occasion instantly more enjoyable! So if you’re really struggling, an extra brut or zero dosage bottle of something fizzy could be just the thing.

Try Bruno Paillard’s Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Extra Brut.

Want to find out more about food and wine pairing? Why not sign up to one of our training courses.

From her uni wine 'tasting' society to studying for her WSET, Sophia has long had a fondness for all things vinous. So after a few years developing her marketing skills in the financial services industry, she decided to mix business with pleasure by moving into the wine trade. Now she writes, instagrams and podcasts about Bibendum’s portfolio of wines and the fascinating people who make them.

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