You’ll find great pairings at the overlap of fennel and wine. The winter crop can play a few roles: vegetable (the bulb), herb (the lacy fronds) and spice (the seeds). All parts of the plant can be eaten raw or cooked, in everything from salads to sausages. Available year-round, fennel has its peak season from late fall to early spring, bringing bright flavor to this typically sun-starved period. Choose a wine pairing based on whichever side of fennel’s personality is most attractive to you.
Licorice-adjacent anise is the dominant flavor of fennel. Those who love the taste will want a wine that highlights that flavor. The cherry and berry characters of Italian Barbera are offset by notes of anise and other sweet spices and dried herbs. It’s especially good paired with fennel-flecked Italian sausage.
Spicy raw fennel becomes soft and sweet when cooked. Try caramelized fennel in any recipe that calls for caramelized onions. Whether vinified completely dry or slightly off-dry, Alsace Pinot Gris has spice, honey and ripe fruit flavors that play to the complex sweetness of cooked fennel.
Fennel has an herbaceous character reminiscent of raw celery, cucumber and bright green herbs like tarragon, mint and basil. It’s a natural with the grassiness of Sauvignon Blanc, especially Sancerre, which is more herbaceous and less fruit-forward than most New World offerings.
Raw fennel is crisp and juicy. Often, you want to pair with a food’s texture as much as its flavor. Crisp raw vegetables call for crisp, even effervescent wines. Dry cider is perfect for any raw fennel dish, with its hint of crisp tart apple that echoes the fennel’s faintly sweet crunch.