Cottage Pie pairs best with medium-bodied red wines with plenty of acidity and earthy, smoky, or peppery notes, such as, Pinot Noir, Chianti Classico, Rioja Crianza, Côtes-du-Rhône, Shiraz and Beaujolais-Villages. For white wine, an oaked Chardonnay with some butter notes will work well with the bready pie crust of your Cottage Pie.
Acidity is a must when pairing wine with Cottage Pie as you need a wine that is able to cut through the gravy and breaded pie crust of the Pie. Acidity also amplifies the hard-earned flavours you baked into your Pie. Meanwhile, the peppery and earthy notes of the red wines mentioned above complement the potato, gravy and meaty flavours of Cottage Pie.
The terms Cottage Pie and Shepherd’s Pie often get intertwined and exchanged in North America, however, Cottage Pie is a savoury pie made with beef, while Shepherd’s Pie is made with lamb. In both instances, the Pie is made from meat, gravy, potatoes, and veggies such as peas, carrots and onions, baked into a pie. The whole affair is similar to chicken pot pie, except with cottage pie, it’s beef. If you see the term Irish Cottage Pie, this means instead of a bready crust, you have mashed potatoes as the pie crust, and all of our pairings will match up with these pairings.
Finally, some Cottage Pie recipes call for tomato, and some don’t. All of the pairings below are high enough in acidity to get along just fine with either variant, provided the tomato element is kept to a minimum.
Best Wine with Cottage Pie
Pinot Noir & Cottage Pie Pairing
Pinot Noir is a light and fruity red wine that has wonderful earthy notes that complement the gravy, meat and potatoes in your cottage pie. Cottage pie is often called ‘peasant food’, but it is deceptively more complex than you think. A proper cottage pie will be made in a manner where the bready pie crust will absorb all the delicious meat and gravy flavours. Meanwhile, every bite contains a new adventure with new flavours popping in and out from the mix of vegetables involved.
Pinot Noir pairs well with Cottage Pie as this lighter red wine won’t interfere with the perfect harmony of Cottage Pie’s flavours. Instead, it injects its acidity into the mix and amplifies all those delicious flavours we mentioned above, as well as complementing the earthy gravy and meat flavours with its earthy notes. Pinot Noir is also refreshing with its juicy cherry, raspberry and strawberry flavours. This is essential, as these zippy notes clean your palate in between bites preparing you for the next flavourful bite!
Pinot Noir will be our most expensive pairing. While you can buy ‘cheap’ Pinot Noir, it won’t be very good. Most good Pinot Noir starts in the $25 and up range (if not higher). My favourite Pinot Noir producers include Etude, Cono Sur, Calera, Dehlinger Winery, Iron Horse, Kistler Vineyards, La Crema, Andelsheim, Brick House, Argyle and Ponzi Vineyards.
Chianti Classico & Cottage Pie Pairing
Acidity is necessary with Cottage Pie as there is a whole lot of carbs and fats to cut through with the bready pie crust and the gravy. Chianti Classico, which is an Italian red wine, is made from the Sangiovese grape, and is known for its perfect balance of acidity and tannin.
The tannin in Chianti is softened by the beef in the Cottage Pie, which helps showcase the wine’s vibrant and refreshing cherry flavours. Meanwhile, Chianti has plenty of savoury notes which complement the earthy gravy flavours such as coffee, black tea, smoke, oregano, spices, herbs and leather.
Medium in body, Chianti Classico can hold up to Cottage Pie’s beefy flavours, all the while ensuring the delicious and subtle Cottage Pie flavours are not crushed.
If Italian wine confuses you, look for a black rooster on your Chianti Classico wine stem label, and you are guaranteed a quality wine.
Côtes-du-Rhône & Cottage Pie Pairing
Côtes-du-Rhône is a medium-bodied red with plenty of refreshing raspberry and strawberry flavours. You’ll also find tons of complementary notes of earth, black pepper, meat, spice, herbs and smoke that elevate and enhance the savoury flavours of your Cottage Pie.
Côtes-du-Rhône is a French red wine that could be a blend of up to 23 different grapes. However, typically you’ll find Grenache with Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Carignan blended in. French red wine is a landscape that is difficult to navigate, however, in most instances, Côtes-du-Rhône is made to be food-friendly, ensuring it will be an excellent match with your Cottage Pie.
My favourite producers of Côtes-du-Rhône include Chapoutier, Château de Beaucastel, Domaine Gramenon, Jaboulet and Tardieu-Laurent.
Shiraz & Cottage Pie Pairing
A medium-bodied Shiraz is going to have amazing black pepper and spice notes that are delicious with Cottage Pie. Meanwhile, you’ll get dreamy chocolate, raspberry and jam flavours that swirl in nicely amongst the beefy flavours of your Cottage Pie.
Shiraz from Australia may sometimes come across as too bold and boozy if you venture into expensive bottles, so with Cottage Pie, I’d stick to an everyday drinking Shiraz, or else the subtle and savoury Cottage Pie flavours may be crushed. If your Cottage Pie features more potatoes and veggies than gravy, I’d move on to another wine as well, as this pairing needs a good bite of beef in every bite for it to work.
French Syrah, which is a more savoury and earthy Shiraz style, makes for a better pairing with Cottage Pie as it is much more complementary with its meatier flavours. However, with its bold, jammy and chocolaty flavours, Shiraz is much more suited towards North American tastes, which is why I tend to recommend it over a French Syrah. Furthermore, in the last few years, Australian Shiraz has moved away from its classic ‘pop star’ flavours and often, you will find more interesting notes of tar, earth, coffee, licorice and spice. I hope this is a trend that continues as it will help bridge the gap between the rock star attitude of Australian Shiraz and the confident but earthy folk-rock of French Syrah.
For Australian Shiraz, you are already probably familiar with the popular brands, however, Penfolds, Jacob’s Creek, d’Arenberg, Molly Dooker, Wolf Blass and Yellow Tail all make fantastic Shiraz. There are many other fine examples of Shiraz to include, and I always suggest you experiment or ask around wherever you buy wine.
Beaujolais-Villages & Cottage Pie Pairing
A Beaujolais Cru, such as a bold and earthy Moulin-à-Vent or Morgon make for much better pairs, however, they are often difficult to track down. Beaujolais-Villages, on the other-hand is easy enough to find. Made from the Gamay grape, Beaujolais is a French red wine featuring bright flavours of cherries, raspberries and strawberries. You’ll often get a whiff of pepper on the nose, which complements the beefy flavours of Cottage Pie.
Beaujolais is a lighter-styled red wine, and the flavours might be overwhelmed if your Cottage Pie is dense with beef. What we mean by overwhelmed is that you’ll only taste the Cottage Pie on the finish, and the goal with a good food and wine pairing is to taste both on the finish. Most Cottage Pies aren’t overly dense with meat as the dish’s goal is to stretch out your budget (beef is expensive), so I feel a Beaujolais-Villages will get along just fine with your Cottage Pie. If you are concerned, look for a bolder Beaujolais Cru such as a Morgon or a Moulin-à-Vent, as they will have a better chance of holding up.
What makes Beaujolais is an excellent wine pairing with Cottage Pie is that it doesn’t interfere with each bite’s synergy of flavours. Instead, the high-acidity of Beaujolais amplifies the vegetables, the potatoes, the bready crust, the gravy and the beef making each fork full of food sing. Meanwhile, the subtle pepper and earthy flavours slip into the mix, adding their stamp to this food and wine marriage. Finally, the tart cherry, raspberries and strawberry notes soothe your taste buds with lush flavours, preparing you for the next delicious bite!