Post and Courier – March 2024 – Wines for Your Saint Patrick’s Day

When it comes to serving (or consuming) traditional beverages for certain events and holidays, I do so love to step outside the institutional norm. Although it would be an understatement to say my genetic background has some diversity, in March my Irish side comes “smiling” through. One could easily default to beer and whisky for our impending nod to Saint Patrick without fear or ridicule. Honestly, I will probably submit to a pint or two (or a dram or three) during my weekend long celebration. This year, however, I will be challenging my pairing abilities and palate with a spectrum of wines to accompany the cornucopia of Irish fare I will be shoving into my gob.

When you begin breaking down flavor profiles of Irish dishes, you find that there are surprisingly more pairing opportunities for white wines versus reds. This most likely corresponds to the amazing bounty of seafood that the Irish enjoy. One of my favorite pub grub seafood delicacies remains fish and chips. The lightly battered fried cod along with those crispy potatoes have accompanied many a pint in my day.

Fish Sandwich

This year, I will be pairing my “one and one” with Domaines Vinet ‘Maleco’ Traditional Method Sparkling Wine ($25). A Melon de Bourgogne (aka Muscadet) based traditional method sparkling, hailing from the western Loire Valley, France. I find that bubbles, and the mouth-watering acidity, help to cut through these fried foods and the sea foam element of Muscadet seems to support the ocean motif of the dish. You may never go back to drinking beer with your fish sandwich ever again.


Salmon has long been a staple ingredient in the Irish kitchen and is prepared more ways than Bubba’s shrimp. As I prefer mine roasted with some sliced citrus and dill, the pairing of Ancora Garganega 2021 ($13) fits the bill. This Venetian wine (Trevenezie IGP) consists of 100% Garganega grape and has the high acidity to stand up to this fatty fish. The wine also has brined citrus notes that marry beautifully to our method of preparation.


One of the most traditional Irish comfort foods, and a Saint Patrick’s Day classic, is coddle. This dish is cooked with layers of sliced pork sausages, rashers, potatoes and vegetables all braised in a broth. Although many experts suggest a warm-climate sturdy Chardonnay, I didn’t want to offend my ABC (anything but Chardonnay) club members. For this reason, I selected a really interesting Buissonnier Bourgogne Aligoté Silex 2022 ($22).

This wine consists of Burgundy’s other white grape, Aligoté, which incidentally is a sibling of our aforementioned Chardonnay. The rich unctuous orchard and melon fruit, broad viscous palate with aromas of fresh herbs and wet stone make this wine a great sipper on its own, nevertheless it will also accompany, without overpowering, this deceptively lighter but hearty dish.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

I would feel a bit negligent not to mention the stereotypical Irish dish of corned beef and cabbage. One would think that salt cured beef brisket calls for a large red wine but nothing could be further from the truth. Some call for a Cabernet Franc but any vegetal flavors in these wines, which is not uncommon, will be accentuated by the extremely vegetal cabbage. So, in this instance, I selected a white variety growing in popularity, Höpler Grüner Veltliner 2022 ($19). The hallmark white grape of Austria, Grüner Veltliner has one of the broadest spectrums when it comes to pairing ability. Even “wine-killers” like asparagus and brussels sprouts cannot stop Grüner. These wines also have a characteristic white pepper that complements the dish’s black peppercorn component quite nicely.

Shepard’s Pie

For my staunch red-only wine miscreants, fear not I have some pairing suggestions to help you celebrate Saint Patrick as well.  Even though many of these foods have an affinity for white wines, as previously mentioned, there are some Irish dishes that beg for a well-structured red. Shepard’s Pie is one such pleasantry, especially when making it with ground lamb.

The parmesan mashed potatoes, rich gravy and earthy herbs cry out for a red wine to help complete this culinary enjoyment. My selection is a native Spanish grape relocated in the Rogue Valley of Oregon, Abbey Road Farm Coventina Vineyard Tempranillo 2020 ($37). In this case the wine needs the food as much as the food does the wine.

The chalky tannin structure of Tempranillo offers an interesting texture that the rich gravy and saltiness of the parmesan helps make even more approachable. The dried herbal component in the wine helps the palate extract and identify the woody herbs used in the dish itself. This is truly a case of a complimentary pairing as the sum is greater than the individual parts.

Lamb Shank

Our final dish remains my love, although not always associated with just Saint Patrick’s Day feasts. Lamb is one of my favorite vegetables and I’ll make short work of it regardless the preparation. There is one version, however, that rises above the rest and leaves me with culinary bliss, lamb shanks.

This slow braised masterpiece exits the oven with a lovely sticky skin and seductive aromas. The dried fruit elements (boysenberry, blackberry, blueberry) and sweet baking spices of Florence Vineyard Rockpile Reserve Zinfandel 2020 ($55) do a great job of accompanying the lamb flavors. Just like the dish itself, our representative Zin has layers of complexity that are impossible to decipher with just one interaction. This combination will be my climax of the weekend sending me into a well-deserved food and wine coma.

Although it may seem like breaking with tradition, I promise that taking a chance on these wines with your multi-day eating and drinking fest, in the name of Saint Patrick, will be well rewarded. Feel free to experiment in pairing your favorite Irish-inspired foods with my selections as well as your own. An old Irish saying states, I hope you live as long as you want and never want as long as you live. Sláinte!