We are doing a fun challenge

“Does It Pair” is a series of blog posts about foods that are universally known to not pair with wine. We’re food and wine fanatics here at Sweet Cheeks Winery, so we decided to take these non-pairable foods and create ourselves a fun challenge by pairing them with various varietals from our line-up of wines. With the artichoke being the champion of non-pairable foods, we thought it was the ultimate food to begin the series with.

An artichoke is the bud of a thistle (flower) and may not look edible to those unfamiliar with it

What is an artichoke?

An artichoke looks a bit otherworldly, and for those not familiar with these delectable vegetables, one look and some may say, “no way.” It is actually the bud of a thistle (flower), and it hardly looks edible to a non-artichoke-loving person. The hard green petals (also known as bracts) cover a fuzzy center called the choke which sits on top of the innermost portion called the heart – a buttery, meaty divinely delicious food that nearly melts in your mouth. The choke portion isn’t edible, but the petals -once they get closer to the heart- are edible by scraping your teeth along the inside of the portion that is attached to the core. If you’ve never had one, we realize this paints a wild looking picture, but trust us, they are so tasty and delicious.

Cutting off the pointy ends of the petals makes artichokes easier to handle when washing, steaming, and removing the outer petals.

Cabernet Sauvignon is not a choice pairing

Artichokes are delicious on their own as a steamed snack (Steamed Artichokes with Garlic Butter) or added into a plethora of recipes (try Spinach Artichoke Chicken). But, sipping a Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay after taking a bite of an artichoke will likely make you abandon both food and wine. 

To steam, simply place the trimmed whole artichoke in a steamer or a double boiler with about a cup of water in the pot.

Why do artichokes not pair well with wine?

There’s a naturally occurring chemical in artichokes called cynarin, which knocks out the taste bud’s ability to experience the taste of bitterness, salt, and acidity – leaving our palates with only one taste: sweet. This sweetness becomes even more intense when drinking a wine that’s been aged on oak due the cynarin’s ability to locate and attach to the sweetness in the oak – pushing any depth and character out of the flavor profile, resulting in a flat and flabby wine that is nothing like the wine you’re likely familiar with.

Dip the innermost portion of a bract (petal) that’s been removed from the steamed artichoke and dip it into drawn garlic butter. Scrape your teeth down the meaty portion for a bit of tasty goodness – a sample of what’s to come when you reach the heart of the artichoke.

The key to finding a wine to pair with artichokes

So, when thinking of what wine to choose, select one that has seen no oak – something that’s stainless steel fermented, super dry, and has vibrant acidity with lemon/lime zesty notes. Our 2019 Grüner Veltliner boasts notes of crisp green apple, grapefruit and lime underscored by jasmine and white pepper. A refreshing citrus zest follows with lean wet stone and mouth watering acidity – the perfect pairing for an artichoke. You won’t believe how tasty these two are together. No more is the artichoke the champion of non-pairable foods. Purchase here and enjoy!