Green beer isn’t the only way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Mead is an ancient drink pre-dating Irish beer. Medieval use of beeswax candles far outstripped honey consumption—so monks blended excess honey with water and fermented it into an alcoholic beverage. Mead was especially popular in Ireland, where grapes were difficult to cultivate.
The Irish long believed mead enhanced virility and fertility, and it was customary for newlyweds to drink mead for one full moon after marrying, hence the word honeymoon. These days, most commercial meads are a blend of fermented honey and grape wines. For a taste of Irish mead, sadly, one might have to travel to the green isles as there doesn’t seem to be any in Hong Kong
Instead, start your St. Paddy celebrations by popping a bottle of Green Point sparkling wine (Soho Wines & Spirits Limited, $ XX). While the name is green, the wine is not, so you might give the bubbly a festive tint with a splash of Peppermint Green Liquor (Fine Vintage, $89) or green Chartreuse (Soho Wines & Spirits Limited, $XX).
Vinho Verde is Portuguese for green wine—but don’t expect emerald tinted brew. A tart wine from northern Portugal, Vinho Verde is pale colored with just a suggestion of green. The wine is called Verde because of its youthfulness, not its color. As Vinho Verde is released a mere 4-5 months after harvest, it usually has a light sparkle left from its fermentation. Vinho Verde is tart, so serve it with something salty, like Irish chips.
Grüner Veltliner is Austria’s signature grape and is known for its white pepper finish. Grüner, meaning green, is often packaged in a green bottle. Producers available in Hong Kong include Salomon, Alzinger, Buchegger and Herrenstein (Solarmax, 2554-1183) or Hiedler (Berry Bros & Rudd, HK$168)
By tradition, Riesling from Germany’s Mosel River is packaged in slim green or blue-green bottles. Dr. Loosen Riesling Kabinett (Watson’s Wine $188) is a festive choice for a St. Patrick’s Day aperitif. This is a pretty wine, slightly sweet with flavors of honey, citrus and rose petals. If a kiss of sweetness doesn’t appeal, then opt for the honey scented, but bone-dry, Selbach-Oster Riesling (Oliver’s, $199).
And what could be more Irish than a bottle produced by winemakers O’Shea & Murphy? This fruity Cabernet blend from Australia’s Maceden Ranges in Victoria (Kedington Wines, HK$298) is an excellent foil for salty corned beef
If your emerald isle celebration requires, easy-to-open bottles, Moondah Verdehlo (Watson’s $148) may be just the ticket. Sealed with a screwcap to keep its guava and passionfruit flavors crisp and fresh, this wine goes down easily, so drink it slowly or you will end up feeling, uh, green.