Pairings | Claret
5 wine and beer pairings for shepherd’s pie
You’ll always find people argue about shepherd’s pie but in my view it should be made with lamb rather than beef (that’s cottage pie) and with very little, if any tomato - apart from maybe a dash of ketchup for sweetness.
Traditionally it was a frugal dish to finish up the Sunday roast, made with leftover lamb and gravy - and and any leftover vegetables that were going. I personally think it’s better made with fresh lamb mince but still like it kept simple and old-fashioned - a little onion, a little carrot, maybe a few peas, a touch of gravy or roast lamb pan juices and some nice creamy mash.
In terms of the ideal pairing it’s a toss-up between beer and a dry medium-bodied red wine:
* a classic English ale like Timothy Taylor’s Landlord is great with shepherd’s pie - possibly my top choice
* Stout or porter also works well, particularly if you’ve used it to make the gravy
* Red rioja is always good with lamb. I’d go for a reserva with this plain kind of dish rather than a younger, more vivid crianza. The same applies to other oak-aged Spanish reds such as Valdepeñas.
* Inexpensive red Bordeaux - what used to be called a ‘lunchtime claret’ - is a great pairing. Again I’d opt for a more traditional style rather than one with higher alcohol and a lot of ripe fruit. It won’t do any harm to a more expensive mature claret either. Simple food is best with special wines.
* A southern French red like the ever-versatile Côtes-du-Rhône Villages or a named village wine like Vacqueyras is always a good match - with shepherd’s or cottage pie.
PS Look, I'm not saying you need a totally different type of wine for cottage pie but the filling often tends to be more like a bolognese sauce - or more tomatoey, at any rate. So check out my recommendations for spag bol or, if you go for one of the above wines maybe choose a more fruity or full-bodied version.
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