Corned Beef and Cabbage pairs best with acidic and fruity red wines such as Beaujolais and Pinot Noir or medium-bodied red wines such as Cabernet Franc and Zinfandel. For White Wine, Corned Beef and cabbage is excellent with Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Grüner Veltliner.
Corned Beef is salt-cured beef brisket and is commonly enjoyed by millions on Saint Patrick’s day, or as part of a Rueben Sandwich. Corned beef is made tender by the curing process, however, it is also quite salty and fatty as when you heat it up, you don’t cook the fat out of it like you would a roast of beef. Thus, acidic wines are a must to provide both refreshment to cut through the saltiness and the fat. The salt content of Corned Beef further enhances the flavours of the wine as salt makes the fruit flavours of the wine more pronounced.
On the other hand, cabbage is funky in flavour, which makes Corned Beef & Cabbage a difficult food item to pair up with. Deep earthy reds like a Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Merlot overwhelm the cabbage flavours and taste a little off when the funkiness of the cabbage creeps in. The funkiness of the cabbage will also crush lighter whites, like an Italian Pinot Grigio. Thus, fuller-bodied white wines with some acidity to handle the corned beef’s saltiness are a must.
Best Wine with Corned Beef
Cabernet Franc and Corned Beef & Cabbage Pairing
Cabernet Franc is naturally high in acidity, and bursting with notes of raspberries, blackberries and red cherries that are refreshing against the saltiness of the Corned Beef. You’ll also find flavours of herbs, green olives, green bell peppers, and earth that complement the Cabbage. The weight of Cabernet Franc tends to be medium, along with medium-tannin, allowing the enjoyable flavours of cabbage to still shine through.
The one caveat with Cabernet Franc is that if it’s not made right, the wine is terrible. Thus, you have to do your homework first with this red wine to ensure it’s of high quality. To make matters even more difficult, Cabernet Franc is not a popular single varietal wine. Thus, you’ll rarely find an example of it alone (often it’s blended with other grapes to make Bordeaux) in a restaurant. For producers, I’d suggest Pillitteri Estates, Chateaux Des Charmes, Tawse, Jarvis Estates, Signorello, Barboursville Vineyards, Columbia Winery, Hermann J. Wiemer, and Bernard Baudry.
Beaujolais Villages & Corned Beef and Cabbage Pairing
Beaujolais Villages is a light and fruity red wine from France that features refreshing notes of cherries, strawberries, plums and raspberries. You’ll also get hints of spice, herbs, black pepper and cloves which match up well with the cabbage.
Beaujolais Nouveaux is a red wine that is meant to be drunk young and will be more fruit-forward, whereas Beaujolais Villages has seen more ageing and has developed some complexity. Beaujolais Nouveaux will also pair up fine with Corned Beef and Cabbage, but it won’t be as complementary. You’ll also find some bubblegum and banana notes in Beaujolais Nouveaux, which not everyone finds appealing. Thus, the safest bet is Beaujolais Villages, which is also incredibly inexpensive as well as consistent.
Beaujolais Cru pairs up even better with Corned Beef and Cabbage, but these wines are sometimes difficult to find outside of France, plus they are made in 10 different regions where the styles are different. Typically, Beaujolais Cru will be a touch more complex while still retaining enough of its fruit-forwardness to be refreshing and pleasant. If you want to go the Beaujolais Cru route, Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent will complement the dish the best as these are the earthier and hearty variants of Beaujolais. You’ll also pay a few bucks more for these wines, however, Beaujolais Cru remains relatively inexpensive and offer exceptional value for the price.
Pinot Noir & Cabbage and Corned Beef Pairing
Pinot Noir is both light and fruity, along with being earthy. The earthy funk of Pinot Noir is pleasant with the steamed cabbage, while the refreshing strawberry and cherry flavours of Pinot Noir deal perfectly with the saltiness of the Corned Beef.
You can buy inexpensive Pinot Noir, and you can buy good Pinot Noir, but you can’t buy both. Thus, expect to pay at least $25 or more for your bottle of Pinot Noir for something decent. Proper Pinot Noir is elegant with seductive notes of fruit that tease the taste buds and deep with its earthy notes of barnyard, smoke, and forest floor. Pinot Noir is a wine that requires patience to understand, but once you finally get it, you’ll be chasing down this wine for the rest of your life. Thus, it’s a wine I highly recommend, but rarely recommend buying blind as there are so many poor examples on the market. If you are new to Pinot Noir and want to pick a bottle up, be sure to do your homework and ask around. If you want something inexpensive and fruity, grab a bottle of Beaujolais Villages for your corned beef and cabbage dinner.
Alsace Pinot Gris & Corned Beef with Cabbage Pairing
It may seem odd pairing white wine with Beef, however, the saltiness of Corned Beef, along with the funky flavours of the Cabbage, make white wines, like Pinot Gris, a good match. Pinot Gris from Alsace France is a full-bodied, dry white wine with plenty of acidity to cut through the saltiness and fat content of the Corned Beef. While Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the same grape, and Italian Pinot Grigio is made in a lighter style that won’t hold up to the strong beef and cabbage flavours.
Pinot Gris from Alsace features layers of flavour, including apricot, citrus, honey, flowers, nuts, peach, pear, spice, smoke, stone and mineral. This makes for an elegant wine that adds complexity and delight to the simple pleasures of corned beef and cabbage.
Dry Riesling & Corned Beef Pairing
A dry Riesling has a stony minerality to it that complements the saltiness of the Corned Beef. Meanwhile, you’ll get refreshing citrus flavours of lime and lemon along with green apple, peaches and apricot. This refreshing nature of Riesling cuts through the saltiness and fat of corned beef, while the aromatic flavours hold up to the beef and cabbage flavours.
Germany is where wine enthusiasts reach for their Riesling as that’s where it historically evolved. However, you’ll find excellent examples of Riesling worldwide. Warmer climates deliver more tropical and lime flavours, where cooler climates have more minerality and apple notes. I prefer my Riesling with minerality, which is why I love Riesling from Germany but also adore Riesling from Ontario, Michigan and NY State.
Off-Dry Riesling means the wine is slightly sweet, and this style is more suitable for a wine pairing with Ham, which is naturally sweet, or spicy foods where you want to turn down the heat. For corned beef, a bone dry Riesling is the route you should go.