A few years ago around St. Patrick’s Day, I was doing a wine tasting with my friend Fred at Miami’s old 1800 Club. We were sipping and sloshing and spitting, eager to tease out the subtlest scents from the delicate wines.
Then happy hour happened, and they brought out a mammoth platter of corned beef and cabbage and plopped it onto the table beside us.
Needless to say, the tasting was over. The sulfurous smell of cabbage can obliterate the aromas of the most redolent wine ever made.
Which raises the question: What kinds of wines could go with Irish food?
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Sure, you could do Ireland’s famous brews — Guinness, Harp, Kilkenny and such, but that’s too easy.
Even some Irish agree. Blogs say wine sales in Ireland have quadrupled since 1990. And as global warming warms the, well, globe, a few wineries have popped up there. Bunratty Castle makes mead, a wine based on honey; and Blackwater Valley Vineyard makes wines from cold-weather grapes including Muller Thurgau and Reichensteiner. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a bottle of them here in the States.
So this year, we have to turn elsewhere. Here are some likely pairings, keeping in mind that the Irish often share favorite foods with the Cornish, the Scots and the English and Americans:
▪ Corned beef and cabbage with a not-too-tannic red like pinot noir.
▪ Irish lamb stew with merlot; in fact, everything lamb-based, including shepherd’s pie, goes with merlot.
▪ Irish coddle, a pick-up stew of leftovers, often including sausage, bacon, potatoes, carrots and such, would go nicely with a red wine with a little heft, maybe an Italian barbera.
▪ Salmon, in all of its forms, is one of those red-wine-with-fish dishes that also calls for a light red like pinot noir. Or a rich California chardonnay.
▪ Fish ’n’ chips, deep-fried, goes well with the scrubbing bubbles of a California sparkling wine.
▪ Bangers and mash are juicy pork sausages served with mashed potatoes and, often, with gravy, calling for a light red wine like grenache.
▪ Pasties, a treat the Irish share with nearby Cornwall, are often made with beef, onion and rutabaga, which has a sweet flavor that goes well with Australian shiraz.
▪ Fisherman’s pie, a rich and creamy vegetarian substitute for its beef-based cousin, often includes fish, shrimp and mushrooms, calling for a crisp white wine to cut through the richness — maybe a lean sauvignon blanc.
▪ When dessert arrives, the Irish seem to like theirs to have a wee nip of alcohol — I speak of Guinness cake with Bailey’s frosting; whiskey cake, with two tablespoons of Irish whiskey in the cake and a full quarter-cup of it in the butter cream frosting; or Irish chocolate stout cake. Here you need a powerful wine like red port.
With these wine choices, you can toast St. Paddy with the best of the beer drinkers.
The word for “Cheers” in Ireland, incidentally, is “Sláinte.” It’s up to you and Google to figure out how to pronounce it.
1. 2013 Barbera d’Asti, DOCG, “Leda the Truffle Hunter,” by Luca Bosio Vineyards, Piedmont, Italy: intense flavors of red plums and chocolate, light body, firm tannins; $15.
2. 2013 Columbia Winery Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington: crisp and rich, with aromas and flavors of ripe red plums, long finish; $16.
3. 2009 Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Port, Douro Valley, Portugal: hint of smoke, flavors of black raspberries and espresso, powerful and rich; $24.
4. Nonvintage Deccolio Moscato, Puglia, Italy: aromas and flavors of ripe peaches and orange, light and mildly sweet and crisp; $10.
5. 2012 Frei Brothers Pinot Noir, Russian River AVA: floral aromas, flavors of blueberries and cherries; $27.
6. 2013 Paringa Estate Shiraz, South Australia: Soft and fruity, with aromas and flavors of black plums, chocolate and spice $11.
7. 2013 “Sofia Red” Wine, by Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Paso Robles, Calif. (62 percent grenache, 37 percent syrah, 1 percent mourvedre): soft, lush and fruity, with aromas and flavors of sweet cherries and spice; $17.
8. 2013 Edna Valley Chardonnay, Central Coast, California: lush, rich and full-bodied, with aromas and flavors of ripe pineapples and mangos; $15.
9. 2010 McKinley Springs Malbec, Horse Heaven Hills, Washington: dark color, aromas and flavors of tart cherries and cloves, smooth; $24.
10. 2013 Davis Bynum Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley: crisp and lively, with aromas and flavors of white grapefruit and minerals: $25.
11. Multivintage Roederer Estate sparkling wine, Anderson Valley: crisp, with lively bubbles, aromas and flavors of golden apples and nuts; $24.
12. 2009 Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Port, Douro, Portugal: hint of smoke, aromas and flavors of black raspberries and espresso, powerful and rich; $24.