By: Mike Birdsall
I think the Irish are unlucky.
Every St Patrick’s Day I conjure up visions of eating corned beef and cabbage for dinner. Then I wonder “What wine goes with corned beef and cabbage?” The corned beef is too salty and doesn’t work with any wine very well. Someone yells to me that beer is more in order. Maybe a wine from Ireland?
The climate of Ireland isn’t the best for growing grapes. There's only one wine that that comes from Ireland and it's made by Llewellyn's - a farmer in north county Dublin. His normal produce is apples and he makes a lot of apple juice for upscale independent retailers. His wine is more of a novelty item at best. What is interesting about Irish wine is the Irish connection with Bordeaux. Irish names like Lynch, Barton, Phelan adorn the labels on some of the best wines from the Bordeaux region. As for wine making, the Irish are better off sticking to the black stuff, Guinness.
But I’m a wine guy and don’t care for beer so I do some more digging. Guess what? It seems that corned beef and cabbage is more of an American St Patrick’s Day tradition. According to Bridgett Haggerty of the website Irish Cultres and Customs their research shows that most likely a "bacon joint" or a piece of salted pork boiled with cabbage and potatoes would more likely have shown up for an Easter Sunday feast in the rural parts of Ireland. Since the invention of refrigeration, people eat fresh meats. Today corned beef and cabbage is considered a peasant dish and is more popular in the United States than in Ireland. People eat it on St. Patrick's Day as a nostalgic reminder of the Irish heritage.
If you want to try really authentic Irish dishes, Gerry at www.WineOnline.ie says that one of the very traditional Dublin dishes is Coddle which is still served to this day. http://www.matchmywine.com/index.php?mod=match&p=details&id=608. The most famous dish is probably the Irish Stew http://www.matchmywine.com/index.php?mod=match&p=details&id=607.
Many of these dishes had their origins in very basic peasant style food dating back to the pre-famine era (mid 1800's)when potatoes were the staple Irish peasant diet mixed with vegetables and meat, if available - the slow cooking process of the stew allowed for lesser cuts of meat. And man are these two recipes hearty.
But if your heart is set on Corned Beef and Cabbage, food and wine pairing isn’t an exact science. Laurence with The Irish Wine Blog at www.sourgrapes.ie says “I'd go with a fruity red with high acidity to get through the saltiness of the corned beef. I'll put my neck out and suggest a Chianti Classico.”
For St. Patrick’s Day, Guinness and Green may be more American, but In the spirit of food and wine pairing, try a truly Irish dish and pair it with a great wine.