First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 16th March, 2019
It’s St Patrick’s weekend, a time of year when many of us will be sitting down to one of Ireland’s most traditional dishes, bacon and cabbage – or, failing that, to one of the nation’s other favourite meals, whether it’s a slap-up roast or just a family-friendly spaghetti bolognese. So what should you drink with them?
Many people would drink stout with bacon and cabbage, but here I would open a bottle of Beaujolais or maybe a Côtes du Rhône. A good Languedoc, such as Corbières, is another good choice. I would also be happy to drink a New World Pinot Noir, from Chile or New Zealand.
If you’re not opting for bacon and cabbage, you could well be going for a traditional roast – the country’s most popular meal, according to a survey a couple of years ago.
Roast meat of any kind generally provides the perfect backdrop for good wine – and as this weekend is also something of a celebration, it could be the moment to bring out that special bottle you have tucked away. Reds are usually best, although roast chicken is also great with richer white wines; in fact, chicken is one of my favourite partners for most wines.
With roast beef and lamb, something red and substantial is best: Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux, Australian Shiraz, Malbec or Chianti Classico will all work well.
If spaghetti bolognese or lasagne is more your thing, remember that red meat generally suggests red wine. When it’s accompanied by tomato sauce, I generally look for a red with good acidity. With spag bol I usually go for an Italian red – Chianti, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Nero d’Avola are all good – but anything medium-bodied with a bit of ripeness and warmth (plus some acidity too) will do nicely.
With cottage or shepherd’s pie – a big favourite in our house – I would generally go for a medium to full-bodied red; on a chilly evening a nice Côtes du Rhône; or Gigondas or Vacqueyras if I am feeling flush. Otherwise I’d open a good Languedoc, such as Corbières, Minervois or Coteaux du Languedoc, or a Merlot from Chile, which are great inexpensive midweek wines. (These all work well with bacon and cabbage, too.)
What if you’re eating fish this weekend? Champagne is great with fish and chips but hardly an everyday choice; an unoaked Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc would be more affordable. With a creamy, rich fish pie, go for a lightly oaked Chardonnay or an Albariño. If the fish is in a Thai green curry, aromatic and fruity wines are best: a Sauvignon Blanc, a Pinot Gris, a Grüner Veltliner from Austria, or a German Riesling will all provide the necessary zest and rich fruit.
Corbières, Hautes Terres Rouges, Les Auzines
13.5%, €12.95 until April 7th
Lightly tannic with warming, rounded red fruits. Perfect with bacon and cabbage, shepherd’s pie or cottage pie.
From O’Briens, obrienswine.ie
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2016, Le Murate, Fattoria Nicodemi
A medium-bodied smooth red wine with good ripe blackcurrant and dark cherry fruits, and a lovely freshness. Try it with spaghetti bolognese or other tomato-based pasta dishes.
From Arnotts, Dublin, and Wines Direct, Mullingar, winesdirect.ie
Domaine à Deux Sauvignon de Touraine 2017
A delicious fruit-filled aromatic Sauvignon with good crisp acidity; try it with fish and chips or with a Thai green fish curry.
From Searsons, Monkstown, Co Dublin, searsons.com
Milton Park Chardonnay, South Australia
Succulent rounded unoaked tropical fruits – nectarines and pineapple with a welcome dash of acidity. Drink alongside fish and chips or a creamy fish pie.
From No 21 Off-Licences Charleville, Listowel and Waterford; McCambridges, Galway, mccambridges.com; Ivan’s Bakery Deli Café, Limerick; Cappagh Stores, Galway; Salthill Liquor Store, Galway; Donnybrook Fair, Dublin 4, donnybrookfair.ie; La Touche, Greystones, Co Wicklow, latouchewines4u.ie; Gibney’s, Malahide, Co Dublin, gibneys.com; the Corkscrew, Dublin 2, thecorkscrew.ie; the Hole in the Wall, Dublin 7, holeinthewallpub.com