Last year I wrote about choosing wine for Saint Patrick’s Day from the point of view of a sommelier with a degree in Irish Studies. This year I plan to expand on the role of alcoholic beverages as part of the celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day. The popular view is that of a day of drinking excessive amounts of beer and other alcoholic beverages. Most of the things that we associate with the Saint Patrick’s Day such as parades, plastic shamrocks, and all day drinking are North American constructs.
Traditionally Saint Patrick’s Day was a religious observance and most people would have started the day by going to Mass. Falling in the middle of Lent, Saint Patrick’s Day was also important because it was a day off from Lenten observances such as “giving up” certain foods and drinks. Therefore if you had given up “the drink” for Lent you could drink on Saint Patrick’s Day. At the end of the evening, people would “drown the shamrock”. They would remove the fresh shamrock that they had been wearing, dip it in their whiskey, throw it over their left shoulder and drink a toast to the Saint.
Recently, while visiting the liquor store , I saw a very nice display which featured various beverages from Ireland. While Ireland does not produce wine, there are a many other options to choose from. You can try a variety of beers, different liqueurs, and of course, the “water of life”, whiskey.
I am going to draw on Irish history for inspiration for my wine choices. Ireland is a Celtic country. It is believed that some of the Celts came from the Galician region in northwest Spain. One of the characteristic grapes of this region is Albariño. I have chosen Martin Códax Albariño from the Rias Baixas region. This pleasantly aromatic wine has peach characteristics with a hint of minerality on the nose. It is smooth and refreshing on the palate with good minerality and citrus on the palate and a nice citrusy finish. It would pair nicely with lighter fish and shellfish.
The next part of Irish History will take me to an area well above my usual price point. Following the defeat of the Catholic King James II in 1688, many Jacobite supporters followed him to France. These emigrants were known as the Wild Geese. Although most of these men served in various Irish regiments, some ultimately made their way into the wine trade. Some were negociants and ultimately owners of Châteaux. The influence of the Irish can still be seen in Bordeaux where Irish names can still be seen in the street names and Châteaux. Some of these include Château MacCarthy, Château Boyd-Cantenac, Château Kirwan Château Michel Lynch and Château Phelan Segur. Locally, I found a listing for Château Langoa Barton and Château Leoville Barton. The Barton family are descended from Thomas Barton who left Fermanagh in 1722 and then made his fortune in the wine trade in Bordeaux. Another famous Irishman in France was Richard Hennessy who served in the military before founding Hennessy Cognac.
Much of Irish history has been defined by emigration. There are many examples of vineyards and wineries in Australia and the United States that are run by descendants of Irish immigrants. This year I have decided to try Concannon Cabernet Sauvignon. Concannon Vineyard in the Livermore Valley was established in 1883 by James Concannon. He brought white Bordeaux cuttings in the late 1800’s and became one of the first California wineries to make Bordeaux style wines.
For more wine choices check on my Saint Patrick’s Day 2014 post.
With all the beverages available to choose from. I would recommend to skip the food colouring and over indulgence and go for quality not quantity.
What am I going to drink this year to mark Saint Patrick’s Day? I am going to leave my comfort zone and attend a whiskey tasting.
Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!