The Chicago River has been dyed green, Irish dancers have kicked their way through the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, and the Queen (a coveted title for one lucky Irish girl) has basked in her glory. Bars and pubs across town have loaded kegs of Guinness to satisfy post-parade revelers…whether those celebratory lads and lasses are Irish or not. The festivities last until the wee hours of March 18; right now, Chicago is in prime festival mode with plenty of libations and Irish fare on every menu. If you’ve never experienced this time of year in Chi-town, you must – it’s amazing. Erin Go Bragh!
But what if you crave a glass of wine, not beer, with that corned beef sandwich, Irish stew, or Dublin Coddle (bacon, sausage, potato, and onion soup)? What wines complement traditional Irish food, those that burst with flavor but are salty, fatty, and peppery? In the spirit of research, I tasted plenty of choices, all sent as samples
, to find delicious, affordable wines for your St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
If you’re a white wine lover, consider Riesling, one of the most food friendly wines you can find. Lighter styles are fantastic, especially if you want to sip without food. A juicy, ripe Riesling pairs nicely with fish and chips thanks to its body and snappy acidity that cut a swath through the rich batter on the fish and the grease and salt of the chips. Don’t forget to ask for a crusty slice of rye bread with caraway seeds…it’s a savory pairing with Riesling, too.
Then again, if red wine is your go-to choice, request a glass of Beaujolais from France. Light bodied and fruit forward, this lovely wine is produced from the Gamay grape. Because Beaujolais is so approachable, it’s perfect to drink on its own and, like the Riesling, its rather high acidity slices right through the fat of any Irish dish. You’ll love each sip as a flavorful pairing with Colcannon (boiled cabbage and potatoes), a plate of rich Irish cheeses, or the corned beef special on the menu.
Following are six delectable choices to tipple as you enjoy the merriment of St. Patrick’s Day.
Rich, broad, and oh-so juicy is the Pacific Rim Yakima Valley Dry Riesling 2015 ($12), an exceptional choice for the Riesling lover who prefers a drier profile instead of one that is very sweet. Aromas of stone fruit, tropical fruit, petrol, and minerality were enticing; on the palate, I discovered a long rich mouthfeel with notes of peach, apricots, petrol, spice, and bracing acidity; all led the way to a balanced, lengthy finish. This expertly crafted Washington wine will pair with seafood and the Dubliner cheese you’ve been eyeing on the menu…
Light and refreshing is the NikWeis Selection Urban Riesling 2015
($14) from the Mosel region of Germany. Minerality, stone fruit, pears, juicy peaches, lime, and lychee nut wafted from the glass…yellow flowers, too. And the flavors? Dry and tart with a hint of sweet, this mouthwatering wine burst with notes of citrus, crisp green apple, tropical fruits, smoke, nuts, flint, and the snappy minerality I love. Although the name “Urban” is a reference to Saint Urban of Langres, a patron saint of vintners, I’m sure St. Patrick would be proud that you selected this Riesling.
A classic Riesling, St. Urbans-Hof Wiltinger “Alte Reben” Riesling Kabinett 2015
($18), is another beautiful example to consider. Vineyards, in the Saar region, are found on steep slopes along the Mosel and Saar Rivers; one of the best sites is located at Goldtröpfchen where stony soils and over 100 year old vines are prevalent. You’ll appreciate aromas of ripe pear, citrus, spice, and herbs as well as lush flavors of lively fruit bolstered with natural sweetness, lip smacking acidity, and a briny finish. This selection is on the sweeter side, so a glass with dessert will be an exceptional pairing. How about Irish Guinness cake, bread pudding, or Irish Apple Cake with Custard Sauce? I’m salivating right now!
Red wine lovers, it’s time to open a bottle of Beaujolais, a wine that is just as relaxed, interesting, and downright fun as you are right now! Sourced from the steep slopes of Mont Brouilly, in the Côte de Brouilly AOC, are Gamay grapes in the Leonis No. 2 Beaujolais Cote de Brouilly 2014
($20). Take a bite of your corned beef sandwich and a sip of this expressive wine. I discovered fresh, clean aromas with a touch of spice and oak, dried flowers, and red fruit. Then, food friendly flavors of juicy berries and herbs, integrated tannins, and lively acidity burst on the palate. The lasting, luscious finish was driven with spice.
A mixed grill is on the menu? Complement those savory sausages with a pour of 2014 Morgon AOC “Vieilles Vignes”
from winemaker Guy Breton ($33). All organic, the wine is sourced from two sub-zones, Saint Joseph and Grand Cras, that help lend stony, structure, and acidity to the wine; many of the vines are around 80 years old. On the nose, pomegranates, blueberries, juicy raspberries, violets, vanilla, and spice were prevalent. Refreshing acidity and light tannic structure combined with notes of red fruit, granite, and hints of oak…these impressive flavors developed with each lingering sip.
Thanks to a small, high-altitude parcel in Régnié, one that is farmed biodyamically, Pignard 2013 Régnié
shows elements of minerality on the nose and palate. Wafting from my glass were lovely aromas of rich, juicy raspberries, blueberries, violets, vanilla, white pepper, and spice. Flavors were equally enticing. Notes of blackberries, strawberries, spice, and earth, framed with luscious acidity and gentle tannic structure, led to a more than satisfying finish. The Pignard 2013 Régnié will be a delectable pairing to grilled meats, traditional Irish shepherd’s pie, or hearty cheeses with freshly baked bread.
Wine with Irish food? You’ve got this!
Sláinte! ~ Cindy