Taming the Wild Artichoke

Fiona Beckett

Fiona Beckett (Source: MatchingFoodAndWine.com)

Wine and food pairing enthusiasts will already know the wonderful insights afforded by British wine writer, Fionna Beckett. A celebrated wine-writing veteran, Beckett is one of my go-tos for inspiration when planning food and wine adventures. But even an expert’s advice can lead one astray, especially with something as subjective as personal tastes.

To wit, the Mediterranean Chicken “Stoneflat” prepared by the somewhat exhaustively named City Fire American Oven & Bar (I’m just happy they resisted the urge to name every fixture in the restaurant as part of their name). I kid, of course. I kid because I love their food. And the aforementioned riff on the pizza is a study in flavor and texture contrasts that work beautifully together.

But then there is the artichoke.

IMG_2372In terms of the food, artichoke works well alongside the dish’s sun-dried tomatoes, feta, and black olives. The natural sourness of the ingredients gives a refreshing pucker, but it’s still a wine-pairing landmine waiting for your palate to tread upon.

Beckett, in her article on matching wine and artichokes, mentions how Zinfandel can be a surprisingly good pairing, citing Evan and Joyce Goldstein’s Perfect Pairings. But I must humbly disagree.

I paired this dish with an Italian Primitivo, which is nearly identical to Zinfandel. (Technically, both Primitivo and Zinfandel are clones of the same Croatian grape, Crljenak. Human taste buds couldn’t find the difference, but DNA analysis did.)  The flavors were as confused as the grape origin explanation I just mentioned.

Tasting the dish as a whole with the wine, the schrubby-sour artichoke immediately stood out in a negative way. Other ingredients, however, paired beautifully, particularly the black olives. In fact, once I removed the artichokes from the flatbread dish, the flavors complemented each other nicely.

The lesson here? Yes, artichokes are (still) difficult to pair with wine. But more to the point, take a grain of salt when using anyone else’s palate besides your own to decide on wine and food pairings. They might be a Master Sommelier like Evan Goldstein or a food writer of the year like Fiona Beckett. But it’s not their tongues in your mouth (sorry, gross). It’s yours.

Happy Pairing!


The SWIRLosopher is Sean Trapani, a professor emeritus of advertising who - despite a degree in philosophy - has abandoned all reason and is trying to make a living in the wine business.

Ape Artwork (c) 2014 Walter Moore, used with permission.