Why Does My Wine Taste Funny When I Sip It with Asparagus & Artichokes?

updated May 1, 2019
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With spring almost upon us, it’s hard not to start dreaming about all the asparagus and artichokes you’ll be gobbling up throughout the season. Perhaps you have had the experience of drinking a glass of wine alongside a dish with either veggie and noticed the wine tasted far from normal. In fact, the wine suddenly tasted bitter and metallic. This is a common occurrence. Both vegetables can make a good glass of wine — be it red or white or even rosé — taste a bit funky. Here’s why.

First, a Note About Taste Buds

It’s important to understand a little bit about how your taste buds work in order to understand why wine can taste funny after you’ve eaten asparagus and artichokes. When you place food in your mouth, your taste buds adapt to that food’s flavor. As a result your perception of sugar, salt, and acid will be tuned differently for the next bite. A simple example is what happens after you brush your teeth. Although toothpaste isn’t actually food, it does have flavor. Take a swig of orange juice after and it’s going to taste much more acidic than usual because your taste buds are slightly altered from that minty taste.

Why Wine Tastes Funny with Asparagus & Artichokes

Both asparagus and artichokes are full of umami, otherwise known as savory flavor. When something is incredibly savory, it can affect how you perceive what you’re drinking with it — which, in this case, is wine. It decreases the perception of body, sweetness, and fruitiness in wine, and increases the perception of bitterness. That means wine sipped after eating something full of umami can taste harsh, metallic, and pretty unpleasant overall. It will taste like the wine is just flat-out bad.

There is an exception: If the food that’s rich in umami is also rich in salt, like Parmesan, cured meat, or smoked fish, these effects are actually counteracted, as salt does the opposite to wine — salt makes wine taste more fruity and sweet and full of body. The same goes with if the food is umami-rich but also fatty, like steak. Unfortunately, foods like asparagus and artichokes (and mushrooms and eggs, for that matter) don’t have enough salt or fat in them to do this, leaving them to be incredibly hard to pair with wine. However, it’s not impossible. There are wines out there that can hold up to the strains asparagus and artichokes put on them.