Technically, Shepherd’s Pie is made with lamb, and Cottage Pie is made with beef, however since they get mixed up all the time, we’re pairing our wine picks with both. For us, Shepherd’s Pie is a frugal dish where you traditionally took your leftover meat, gravy, and veggies (peas, carrots, potatoes) and baked it into a pie. We love how the bready pie crust soaks up the gravy, or how the earthy gravy flavours intertwine with the veggies and meat.
These pairings will also work with Irish Shepherd’s Pie, which features mashed potato as the pie crust vs bread.
For Shepherd’s Pie and wine pairings, our top choices are red wines that are acidic enough to cut through the gravy but also feature earthy and spice flavours to complement the meat and veggies. Thus, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, and Côtes-du-Rhône all work wonders. For white wine, a buttery Chardonnay is an excellent match as it will elevate the bready flavours of the pie crust.
Pinot Noir & Shepherd’s Pie
Pinot Noir‘s earthy tones of mushroom and forest floor complement the gravy’s earthy texture and notes. Meanwhile the fruity acidity cuts through the dense vegetables where it can zero in and elevate the lamb or meat flavours.
Chianti Colli Senesi & Shepherd’s Pie
Chianti Colli Senesi is a Chianti made in the sub-region of Colli Senesi. Sangiovese is the prime grape used in Chianti, although other grapes such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or Colorino may be added.
As Sangiovese is the prime grape, you’ll find a lot of brisk acidity here that will cut through the rich gravy and meat. On top of that, you’ll find savoury notes such as whisps of espresso, oregano, and sweet tobacco that complement and intertwine with the earthy gravy and vegetable flavours.
Finally, the wine is balanced with moderate tannin and a tart cherry flavour the help cover up the gamy nature of lamb that may be in your Shepherd’s Pie.
Côtes-du-Rhône Villages & Shepherd’s Pie
Côtes-du-Rhône wines are medium-bodied reds with fresh red fruit characteristics and spicy earthy notes. 23 different types of grapes can be used in a Côtes-du-Rhône but the most prominent reds are Grenache dominant with a little bit of Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Carignan blended in.
We recommend finding a Côtes-du-Rhône featuring a bit of Syrah, which adds a bit of pepper, elevating this pairing either further!
Bordeaux & Shepherd’s Pie
You won’t need an expensive Bordeaux to appreciate how well this wine goes with Shepherd’s Pie. Lamb and Bordeaux are considered one of the greatest pairings ever, however a young, but ready to drink Bordeaux will go amazing with a beef based Shepherd’s pie as well.
Bordeaux is a blend Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, and Petite Verdot. While the more expensive bottles are meant to be aged for decades before they are enjoyed, budget Bordeaux is meant to be food-friendly, and these wines feature a nice balance of fruit, tannin, and acidity. Young and fresh Bordeaux will have enough body to hold up to the Shepherd’s Pie, as well, it won’t dominate the food either, so with each bite, you’ll taste both the food and the wine.
Chardonnay & Shepherd’s Pie
A buttery Chardonnay elevates the bready flavours of the pie crust. Meanwhile the tropical fruit flavours are refreshing against the dense root vegetable and gravy textures and helps draw out the subtle flavours you may have never noticed before.
Another wonderful wine pairing with Shepherd’s Pie is Riesling. Again you have an acidic white that cuts through the rich gravy and earthy veggie flavours to refresh your tastebuds.
Beer and Shepherd’s Pie
A proper British Bitter has a distinctive grain flavour supported by a hop bitterness. From there, the style of a Bitters can vary as you can have an ordinary bitter, which is about 3.5% alcohol, to an extra-special Bitter, which has much more in the way of bitter hops, and sits at 5.5%
Any Bitters you choose will suffice as the snappy hops do a wonderful job of cutting through the rich meat and gravy flavours. To properly appreciate a Bitter beer, you’ll have to have it fresh out of a cask in England. Bottled Bitters do exist. However, they are much heavier in carbonation and don’t deliver the magic a cask served Bitters can offer.
So the next time you are in London, England, be sure to find a pub that serves a proper pint of Bitters as well as a delicious Shepherd’s Pie. You won’t regret it as you’ll find this beer nearly mirrors every delicious and savoury component that this popular comfort food has to offer.
British Porters aren’t as scary as they let on. While they look like they are high in alcohol, they’re only about 5%. The bitterness of this beer is also nicely balanced against the sweetness and malt flavours.
Furthermore, they have a nice fruity aromatic that plays well with the gamy lamb flavours in your Shepherd’s Pie. Overall, British Porter is a silky beer that pairs well with the home-cooked comfort of this marvellous dish. The balanced bitterness cuts through the rich meat and gravy flavours, while the dark malt flavours complement the bready crust.