The Emerald Isle has lovely traditional dishes and an increasingly diverse artisan food scene. If you are looking for a different sort of St. Patrick’s Day fare this year – other than the traditional corned beef and cabbage – an Irish cheese board is a delicious alternative, or addition, to your holiday menu.
Ireland’s luscious green pastures support a strong dairy industry, and Irish cheese is no longer limited to various forms of cheddar. Small family operations and artisan cheesemakers offer a wide selection of different cheeses made from cow, goat, and sheep’s milk – some of which may be more difficult to find outside of Ireland, but they are well worth the hunt. If you are looking for an alternative to beef and beer this year, try these Irish cheeses paired with classic wines.
Credit: @Sheridans Cheesemongers
First off, we have Durrus. One of the original Irish farmhouse cheeses, it was developed in 1979 in County Cork. This soft cow’s milk cheese has a mild taste, a soft rind, and a creamy consistency similar to Brie. The flavor becomes stronger and fruitier with age, and pairs well with aromatic white wines that have a touch of sweetness. An off-dry Riesling or Gewürtztraminer will bring out the fruitiness and creamy consistency of this cheese.
Credit: @Sheridans Cheesemongers
Also produced in County Cork, Coolea is a firm cow’s milk cheese with a sweet, vaguely caramel flavor. Developed by an Irish family of Dutch ancestry, this cheese is actually made using an old Gouda recipe. Its waxy rind and firm texture are very reminiscent of Dutch Goudas, and it has won multiple international awards. To match this cheese’s rich, rounded feel, serve it with a full-bodied, elegant white wine that has a touch of oak. A dry Chenin Blanc, an oaked Chardonnay, or a rich Australian Semillon will enhance the feel and flavor of this cheese.
Credit: @Cheese Sex Death
No Irish cheese plate would be complete without the famous Irish cheddar, but choose one with a twist, like the Irish porter cheddar. This version is marbled with Guinness-brewed porter, whose bittersweet taste enhances the tanginess and pungency of the cheddar, while adding darker, chocolatey flavors. It is best served with a strong, fruit-forward red wine that can stand up to the cheddar’s flavor without overwhelming your palate. A warm, fruity Australian Shiraz or rich California Zinfandel, or other red blends based on these grapes will stand up to the distinctive cheddar flavor without distracting from the cheese itself.
Credit: @Cashel Farmhouse Cheesemakers
Crozier Blue is Ireland’s only blue cheese made with sheep’s milk. It’s semi-soft, rich and creamy, with a slight saltiness but without the strong “blue” taste of a Roquefort or a Stilton. Blue cheeses are often best paired with sweet dessert wines, which tend to mellow the flavor. Since this is not a particularly strong blue cheese, it does not need a high alcohol wine such as Port, but pairs well with soft, sweet, rounded wines such as a French Sauternes, a sweet German Riesling, or even a late harvest Sauvignon Blanc.
So there you have it – the perfect pairings for your St. Patrick’s celebration. Just add some Irish soda bread and perhaps some dried fruits or chutney to your cheese board, and you are ready to surprise and delight your guests. Here’s to your discovery of Ireland’s culinary treats and to a happy St. Patrick’s Day – sláinte!