Skip the skunky green beer this St. Patrick's Day. We asked three wine professionals to recommend wines to pair with traditional Irish dishes. Our panel:
- Meghan Moran, sommelier for Del Frisco's
- Sasha Smith, of the wine blog Spin the Bottle and Food52 wine contributor
- Dagan Koffler, wine educator and consultant, Epiphany
Here's what they said.
Wines for Corned Beef
Meghan Moran: Corned beef and cabbage is a staple in the Irish diet and if there's one thing a good Irish gal knows about it's making a traditional dish memorable. Pinot Noir from California would be my first pick; in a perfect world, try the Marcassin "Blue Slide" 2005. This is the wine you'd choose when you love the company you're with and want dinner to last for hours. No one rushes through a bottle of this Sonoma Valley gem. You can almost picture the fog rolling off the vineyards when you're drinking it.
My second choice, and not a bit less thrilling, would be a Northern Rhone delight from the roasted slopes of Cote Rotie. Syrah is the varietal that shines here. The lush smoky, earthy tones will bring to life the salty corned beef and make cabbage much more exciting to eat. Specifically the Chateau d'Ampuis 2001—this is a stunner made by the quality minded house of E.Guigal. If this is out of your budget, any E.Guigal will do.
When all else fails and you want to make a dinner special, go for a vintage Champagne. There is no better way to spice up traditional cuisine with a classic vintage from a formidable house. I recommend the 2002 Bollinger "La Grand Annee." Be ready for a complex, hazelnut, buttered toast finish that will liven any event and make a memory to last through the years.
Sasha Smith: Rib-sticking Irish food needs a refreshing drinking partner. Casual northern Italian reds—I'm thinking Dolcetto, from the Piedmont, and Lagrein, from Alto Adige—make lively, bright counterpoints to corned beef and the like. They also have moderate alcohol levels, which means you can also indulge in some beer and Jameson's without too many after-effects in the mornin'. Don't be afraid to chill them for a few minutes in the fridge for extra refreshment.
Wines for Meat and Potato Dishes, Stews
Dagan Koffler: Irish dishes are definitely a little challenging when it comes to wine pairing. My take is I think that most traditional Irish dishes consisted of meat, potatoes, and some sort of steamed veggies; also stews and things of that nature. That said, I would love to have a Barolo, something that won't break the bank, like Familigia Anselma. A traditional style, more rustic earthy style, with racy tannins. That would be great with the meat and potato dishes.
With Irish stews I would love a Chateaneuf-du-Pape, perhaps Clos Mont-Olivet. Very traditional style, with Grenache as the main grape.
Wines for Fish (and Pork)
Sasha Smith: With a name like O'Reilly's, how can you go wrong with this Pinot Gris? (There's a line drawing of an Irish wolfhound on the label for an additional Hibernian touch.) Oregon winemaker David O'Reilly hails from Belfast, and he does a great job with this nicely priced Pinot Gris. Medium-bodied, with floral and smoky notes, it's a good match for fish and pork dishes.
Dagan Koffler: Another dish I thought of was fish and chips, which would pair with a great many wines. I think a funky white wine like Ribolla Gialla from Movia would work.
Sasha Smith: Ireland may not be known for its vineyards, but the Irish have been responsible for some of the most iconic wines in the world. That's because many of the founding members of the Bordeaux wine trade hailed from the Emerald Isle. Léoville-Barton, Léoville-las-Cases, Lynch-Bages, Phelan-Ségur, Pichon-Longueville-Comtesse de Lalande all have some Irish blood in them. If you have any classic Bordeaux in the cellar, St. Patrick's Day is a great time to break them out.
Many thanks to Meghan, Sasha, and Dagan for contributing their picks. So what are you planning to drink this St. Paddy's Day?
About the author: Kara Newman has written about wine and spirits for such publications as Wine Enthusiast and Sommelier Journal magazines, and is the author of Spice & Ice, which explores 60 tongue-tingling cocktails.