Asparagus is what’s called a wine-challenged food.  Certain compounds found in asparagus are responsible for its grassy, sometimes sulphurous aromas and flavours can clash with wine, turning it metallic and bitter.  The best bet is generally found to be Sauvignon Blanc. This grape typically produces crisp, refreshing and mouth-watering wines full of aromas and flavours including gooseberry, green peppers, freshly cut grass, and minerals.  The wine’s green fruit flavours and grassiness make it match and not clash with the dish.  I tried a fresh and fruity Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc and found it matched really well.  Drostdy-Hof does a good Sauvignon Blanc which is another option.

Prep time – 5 minutes, Cooking time – 45 mins

Ingredients for four people

Part one – the risotto base

1 litre vegetable or chicken stocksauvignon blanc, south african wine, asparagus risotto

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped

600g arborio rice

250ml of Sauvignon Blanc

For part two

100g butter

1-2 handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

zest and juice of 2 lemons

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

extra virgin olive oil


The basic risotto recipe requires a lot of stirring, as you will see, so don’t make this if you can’t stay by the hob for the duration.

Bring the stock to a simmer in a saucepan. Put the olive oil and butter in a separate large pan, add the onion and cook very gently for about 15 minutes, until soft. Add the rice and turn up the heat. Keep stirring so nothing sticks. Then add the wine and continue stirring until it’s all mixed in.  Turn down the heat and then add the hot stock a soup ladle at a time, stir, let it heat and absorb into the rice and then repeat until it is all absorbed. This should take about 15 minutes and give you rice that is beginning to soften but is still a little al dente. Leave to one side.

Part two

Finely chop the asparagus, keeping the tips whole.sauvignon blanc, south african wine, asparagus risotto

Now put a large saucepan on a medium to high heat and pour in half the stock, followed by all your risotto base and the finely sliced asparagus stalks and the tips. Stirring all the time, gently bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer until almost all the stock has been absorbed. Add the rest of the stock a ladleful at a time until the rice and asparagus are cooked. You might not need all your stock. Be careful not to overcook the rice. It should hold its shape but be soft, creamy and oozy, and the overall texture should be slightly looser than you think you want it.

Turn off the heat, mix in the butter and the Parmesan, almost all the lemon zest and all the juice. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Put a lid on the pan and leave the risotto to rest for a minute. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, a scattering of lemon zest and a block of Parmesan on the table.  And of course, a glass of Sauvignon Blanc!