One of the Italian pleasures is to pair a good dish with a glass of wine. But sometimes the pairing can be difficult because of the characteristics of certain foods. Artichokes are among the vegetables that give the most trouble, so much so that many sommelier manuals recommend drinking water. This advice is a bit drastic, because while it is true that pairing wine and artichokes is difficult, there are wines that can accompany artichokes well, provided you know a few "tricks."
Let's get to know artichokes
The artichoke (Cynara Scolimus) is a vegetable known since ancient times and valued for its beneficial and even aphrodisiac properties. Cultivation was introduced around 1400 in Sicily, and today Italy holds the world record for production, which occurs mainly in the south, with Sicily leading the way, followed by Sardinia and Puglia. There are some 90 varieties worldwide, but the most renowned are the Spinoso di Sardegna, protected with PDO, the Romanesco del Lazio, the Brindisino and the Paestum artichoke, all protected with PGI.
They are eaten both raw and cooked in a variety of ways, baked, au gratin, fried, steamed, boiled or sautéed, and accompany fish or meat dishes as a side dish; they appear as ingredients in pastas, risottos and omelettes; and they are the protagonists of some traditional recipes, such as carciofi alla giudia or carciofi imbuttonati, i.e., stuffed, typical of Campania and Sicily.
Artichokes have a characteristic flavor given by cynarin, a polyphenol derived from caffeic acid, responsible for the bitterish taste; she is our enemy in pairing because, depending on the recipe, she can accentuate the tannic part of the wine, make it sweetish, metallic or even make it "disappear."
Wines to match
For proper pairing, it is very important to take into account the other ingredients that appear in the artichoke recipe as well, but as a general rule, we can start by excluding all full-bodied, tannic red wines and prefer young, fresh white wines, such as Vermentino from Sardinia, Frascati from Lazio, Falanghina from Campania or Nosiola from Trentino. The most problematic pairing remains with raw artichokes, often dressed with oil and lemon: an acidic, citrusy white with some residual sugar and low alcohol content, such as certain Rieslings from Mosel, can come to our rescue. To accompany pastas and risottos, in addition to whites, one can uncork Classical Method bubbles, preferably made from Chardonnay, such as Trento or Franciacorta Satèn, while if artichokes accompany meat courses, one can choose a rosé from the south, such as a Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo, or even a red, but as long as it is soft, fresh and low in tannins, such as a Bardolino or a Frappato.
Wine and artichoke pairings: our suggestions
We tried wine and artichoke pairings with some of the most classic recipes. Here are our suggestions.
Scallop and artichoke gratin appetizer: uncork a soft, harmonious bubbly, such as Ferrari's Trento Maximum Blanc de Blancs (ferraritrento.com), a fragrant and fruity mountain Chardonnay; its delicate elegance dialogues with both the sweetness of the scallops and the flavor of the artichokes.
Risotto with artichokes: it is a good solution to pair it with a Franciacorta Satèn, soft and creamy. Ferghettina's Millesimato (ferghettina.it) has a nice savoriness in nice balance with the dish.
Difficult wine and artichoke pairings
Risotto with artichokes and speck
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Pasta with artichokes and sausage: you need a wine that balances the sweetness of the pasta, the intense flavor of the sausage and, of course, does not bicker with the artichokes. The most convincing choice is a rosé, which knows how to combine fruity softness and acidity, as in the case of Cantina Tollo's Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo Hedòs 2021 (cantinatollo.it).
Carciofi alla giudia: don't go wrong by going all in on a classic regional pairing, that with a Frascati. To play it safe, go for Fontana Candida's Superiore Riserva Luna Mater (gruppoitalianovini.it), a delicious blend of white Malvasia di Candia, Malvasia del Lazio, Greco and Bombino, which has a structure suitable for accompanying artichokes even when they are a side dish with white meats and fish.
Difficult wine and artichoke pairings
Roman-style, alla giudia and fried artichokes
Discover with us how to prepare a recipe for artichokes in the three traditional versions of lazio: alla romana, alla giudia and fritti
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Stuffed artichokes alla Napoletana: it is still a regional marriage to Falanghina, a fresh, fruity and mineral white, slightly acidic and very versatile on the table, because it can accompany dishes without imposing itself. We like the one from Terra di Briganti (terradibriganti.it) for its citrusy taste and excellent relationship between quality and price.
Sea bass with artichokes: the savory, delicate flavor of the sea bass plays in balance with the bitter-sweet flavor of the artichokes; not to break the magic, you need a young white, which can combine the savoriness with the sweet notes of ripe fruit: a Sardinian Vermentino, such as Sella&Mosca's Cala Reale (sellaemosca.com), is fine.
Veal with artichokes: in this recipe there can be a pairing with a red wine, which has the right personality to accompany the veal, but also good qualities of freshness and smoothness and a little tannic flavor. The gentle companion we found is Bardolino, which originates on the Veneto shores of Lake Garda. Masi (masi.it) produces an excellent version, Bardolino Classico Frescaripa, which is typical, fresh and versatile.