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Wine and The Irish - St. Patrick a Wine Drinker?
Copyright 2006 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved. Originally printed March 14, 2005. For more information go to

"Did St Patrick enjoy a glass or three of wine?"

With the Irish saint's day coming up Friday and much of the world putting on something green regardless of our actual ethnic heritage, this provocative opener to a story in Sunday's Belfast Telegraph caught my eye. It's not a question I had thought of before, but if I ever imagined Saint Paddy drinking at all, I would have envisioned him quaffing something black and malt-based, an early precursor of Guinness Stout.

Not so, argues writer John Hunter in a feature story headlined Wine & Vine: Here's to St Pat. Since the historical Patrick's family was Romano-British nobility, he said, wine imported to the northern Isles from Rome might have been a normal thing. What's more, Hunter wrote, "Patrick's later Irish crusade led missionaries to Europe, where early records of their presence in Bordeaux and the Loire valley exist."

Ireland's French connection in more recent times - "recent" being interpreted as "the past 300 years" - is even more easy to trace. Simply check out the vineyard map of Bordeaux, and you'll find it as studded with Irish names as currants in a loaf of soda bread: "Lynch", "Boyd", "Kirwan", "Barton", "Clarke", "Dillon", "McCarthy" and "Phelan" all appear on the labels of excellent Bordeaux, including such great properties as Chateau Lynch-Bages and, at the pinnacle, Chateau Haut- Brion and the other properties of Domaines Dillon.

So if you're not in the mood for a black draught of Guinness or green- tinted mass-market American suds on Saint Patrick's Day, feel free to substitute a glass of fine Irish Bordeaux. And, although a good claret should go well enough with corned beef and cabbage, bear in mind that this purportedly Irish dish is really an Irish-American immigrant invention. Back on the Auld Sod they'll be dining on spring lamb, and there's really nothing better with that than a good Bordeaux.

Read John Hunter's full story in The Belfast Telegraph online.


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