Whiskey, Brine, and Wine

A Guide to St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day is synonymous with parades, green beer, and rowdy youthful faces adorned with shamrock stickers, waving pint-sized Irish flags. Conditions are perfect to celebrate Irish heritage with an Irish beverage - down a Guinness, sip Baileys, or take shots of Irish whiskey. But what about wine? James Joyce once said "white wine is like electricity," but he wasn't referring to wine made on the Emerald Isle; his affection was for an obscure Swiss varietal, known to him as "archduchess." The Irish's contribution to the world of fine wine can be found on the other side of the English Channel, in France's (and perhaps the planet's) premier wine producing region: Bordeaux.

In the 1690s, the Lynch family fled Ireland, leaving their home in Galway to avoid persecution. Like many Irish Catholics at the time, they made their home in France. Some of these emigrants earned a living in the wine trade. A number of them saw success as negociants and merchants while others, including John Lynch made their mark as property owners. His legacy lives on in the name of one of Bordeaux's best known wines: Chateau Lynch-Bages. Other chateaux still feature the names of prominent Irishmen of the day including Chateau Leoville-Barton, which remains a holding of the Barton family. Anthony Barton's 2010 Grand Vin was rated 100 points by Wine Enthusiast.

Although Ted Murphy, curator of Ireland's wine museum says that before stout was invented Bordeaux "was the Guinness of its day," the bold reds of the Medoc are not ideal for pairing with the traditional Irish-American St. Patrick's Day dinner. For corned beef and cabbage, I would suggest Chenin Blanc, specifically one with an Irish legacy - Barton & Guestier Vouvray 2013 has a subtle sweetness as well as the right weight and acidity to complement the salt and fat content of this customary dish.

Perhaps the most famous Irish libation pairing is not wine with food but rather Irish whiskey and an unlikely bedfellow - pickle brine. An export of Bushwick, Brooklyn's hip bar culture, the Pickleback Shot has become an international sensation and a mainstay for St. Patrick's festivities. Simply take a shot of whiskey and follow with a shot of brine. The salty pickle chaser is cleansing to the palate and sooths the whiskey's alcoholic sting.

However you choose to celebrate - be it Bordeaux, beer, or booze - please do so safely and responsibly!

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