First of all, my wife makes a mean Shepard's Pie, and I am providing the recipe for you here from her great food blog, DAZ in the Kitchen. She publishes a lot of great recipes for food and article on food lifestyle. Her meals are a joy to me because (1) they taste good and nourish me in their own right, and (2) provide me an excuse to pick out a nice bottle of wine to go with dinner! My friends who have had her Shepard's Pie love it and fight over 'take home' if there is any leftover.
While there are a number of secondary red grapes (see my post on Malbec as an example and what constitutes a 'secondary' grape) that may match well with Shepard's Pie, I only focused on considering a Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Pinot Noir. Merlot could have also been a good choice, but I never really think of Merlot, plus I like to have a glass of the wine we are having with dinner beforehand (I am drinking it as I write this!), and would rarely consider drinking a glass of Merlot on its own, when there are so many other great wines from better grapes (at least in my opinion) to choose from.
The main ingredient in Shepard's Pie is lamb mince and that means a decent Pinot Noir could match up well. However, a good Pinot Noir is so refined and elegant, and Shepard's Pie has a lot of other ingredients in it such as bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, and a lot more. A good Pinot Noir deserves to be matched with lamb shanks or some other lamb dish other than as mince.
The same is true of Shiraz. It deserves to be matched with a large slab of beef, well seasoned of course, but with the structure and thickness of the beef intact. This left a Cabernet Sauvignon as a splendid choice. But then there was the question of 'which' Cabernet Sauvignon?
Shepard's Pie is a very pedestrian dish. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love it and drinking wine with it, but it has a lot of different good, yet cheap flavors involved in its creation. (In fact, I always like to have some leftovers because once Shepard's Pie sits for 24 hours, the flavors co-mingle so beautifully and I love it even more the next day!) That means an aged or too refined a Cabernet Sauvignon would overwhelm (or possibly even embarrass) the Shepard's Pie. Therefore, I need to find a decent, yet pedestrian Cabernet Sauvignon also to compliment the Pie.
While I have had better (and much more expensive!) Cabernet Sauvignon wines, this one is very good for the money and also matchings very well with lamb mince infused with the variety of flavor the rest of the Shepard's Pie provides.
I must admit though, now as I write this that while I would not match up a 100% Merlot with Shepard's Pie, the thought of a Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot blend could be a very good match, and I think I will marry the Shepard's Pie with a Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot blend the next time to see how it goes.
I am looking forward to dinner and wine once again this evening and will let you know how the combination works in the near future.