St. Patrick's Day Wines
by Brock Cummings
Of all of the holidays we celebrate throughout the year, St. Patrick’s day may just be the least wine-friendly….at least on the surface. But just because beer, Irish cream and whiskey aren’t your jam, doesn’t mean that you can’t equally enjoy the holiday with a glass of wine.
So why doesn’t wine go with St. Paddy’s? Most likely because of the long traditions of brewing beer and distilling whiskey on the Emerald Isle and even more simply the cost was out of reach for many average folk in the past. It's not as if wine is completely foreign to Ireland, the Celts probably introduced wine to the island from Europe via Britain around 500 BCE or earlier and later Christian monks were always making sacramental wine in their cloisters and abbeys throughout the country. Today, wine is the second most popular alcoholic beverage in the country behind beer - so there are certainly options to pair for the most famous Irish holiday.
But what about the earthy & vegetal flavors of cabbage, carrots & potatoes? What about the salt and spice of corned beef? Salmon’s flavors of smoke and sea? Yes, these are notoriously difficult flavors to pair wine with, but with a little persistence and help from Brennan’s, you can find the perfect bottle for your emerald celebration.
Probably the oldest type of wine from Ireland (likely created long before grape wine was introduced), and one seeing a resurgence in popularity in the United States. Basically just water and honey combined and then fermented - the fruit additions, added carbonation and variations on sweetness are seemingly endless. For something a bit more approachable that doesn’t take itself too seriously, try Nottingham Nectar. Madison-made sparkling meads using Wisconsin honey and Wisconsin fruit. The sweet earthiness of wildflower honey is a great match for the classic corned beef and cabbage, the carbonation is a natural palate cleanser, and the Door County Cherry Mead adds just the right amount of tart, fruity acidity to balance the salt and fat of the meal.
Riesling is a wonderful grape that is extremely versatile - especially in situations where other more classic styles like Cabernet or Chardonnay just don’t work with the meal, expressing too much tannic, oak or higher alcohol overtaking the nuance of the dish. A sweet or dry version will work well for St. Patrick’s day, but for this recommendation we choose a Dry Colorado Riesling from High Desert Wine Lab. Dry, light body, with notes of lemon zest and tart apple and a lingering finish, this wine will balance the cruciferous notes of the cabbage while releasing more of the flavor of the beef as the sugar content can counter the saltiness common in corned beef.
Vinho Verde Rose!
Low alcohol. Delicate fizz. Light and juicy red fruit flavors. These are typically excellent characteristics for any wine paired with food to get the most out of the experience. One wine that has been becoming more popular and is the perfect fit is Vinho Verde Rose. From Northern Portugal and literally translated as “young wine”, this version uses several native red grapes to get the color, aroma and flavors we love. Raspberry pink in color, with a slight prickle of fizz that emphasizes its bouquet of red fruits and tropical fruits. Try Gazela Vinho Verde Rose for a wonderful example of the style that compliments both the color and flavors of smoked salmon.
Red Wines!We think white and rose are the ideal options to pair, but if you are really looking for a red to pair, seek out the same character you find in Vinho Verde. Lower alcohol, expressive fruitiness, light body and minimal oak. Styles that often fall into this category are Pinot Noir, Gamay, Wisconsin-grown Marquette or Chianti, among others.