Do you want to serve wine with corned beef and cabbage? We discuss the red, rosé, and white wine pairing options and share what wines worked best with our corned beef following several experiments. We also provide some cooking tips. Be sure to check out our Wine Pairing Problems video about Wine with Corned Beef & Cabbage!
If you are in a hurry and want the cliff notes version, here are the types of wine we have tested with corned beef and cabbage with favorable results. Read through the article for details on the wines that worked, and some that didn’t!
White & Rosés
- Dry Riesling
- Vouvray (Chenin Blanc based white wine)
- Medium/full-bodied rosé (Grenache based from Sin Banderas)
- Fruit-forward Zinfandel
- Lighter / lower alcohol Pinot Noir
Challenges of wine with corned beef
Sure, a pint of Guinness might be the most popular beverage to open to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. I’m sure I’ll have some Guinness between now and March 17. While beer is certainly a good option for your St. Patrick’s Day meal, today we want to explore wine with corned beef and cabbage.
Wine is by far my favorite drink to pair with food. I relish the challenge of finding wine for foods that pose pairing challenges. Wine with corned beef and cabbage definitely seemed like a good topic to tackle.
Yes, corned beef is of course a kind of red meat. Typically that would have us thinking about a big red wine, maybe a Cabernet Sauvignon. But not so fast, that is not the wine you want with corned beef and cabbage.
Corned beef is rather salty, that is one consideration for picking a wine with corned beef dinners. Boiled cabbage also has strong flavors to contend with picking a wine pairing; and you are likely to be spreading some mustard on the corned beef.
I perused a number of articles about pairing wine with corned beef and cabbage, and yielded a dozen plus possible types of wine to try. Time to start experimenting!
White or red wine with corned beef?
Red wine might seem like an obvious choice for those of us who the red wine for red meat. But there were a decent amount of white wines suggested in my research.
So when I first did this experiment in 2018, I figured I would test one white wine and one red wine with our corned beef and cabbage. I repeated the testing with two different red and white wines with corned beef and cabbage the following year.
One idea I latched upon is that a wine you might choose for Thanksgiving can also be a good choice for a corned beef pairing. I was looking for wines with some fruit, acidity and low relatively low alcohol content. Low alcohol always tends to be good for wine and food pairings, but is particularly helpful when contending with foods that have some strong flavors that can be challenging with wine.
As you will see below, keeping these ideas in mind, we have found pairings that work with corned beef in all three categories — white, rosé and red wine.
Pairings with white wines
The 2016 Champalou Vouvray ($23, 12.5% ABV) was the first white wine that we successfully paired with corned beef and cabbage.
Vouvray is an appellation in the Loire region of France, known for white wines made from the Chenin Blanc grape. An earlier vintage of this Vouvray had been among my Thanksgiving Wine Picks previously, so I thought this white wine with corned beef had promise.
The Vouvray has bright lemon fruit soft mouthfeel, and some underlying minerality. We tested the Vouvray along with a red Burgundy during our first pairing experiment, and the Vouvray was the hands down winner! This white wine cleansed the palate after the salty meat, and also went along nicely with the mustard. There was enough body to stand up to the beef, too.
Based on my initial testing, I had more confidence in white wine as a pairing for corned beef. So the next timeI made corned beef, I picked a bottle of 2016 Ravines Dry Riesling ($18, 12.5% ABV) from the Finger Lakes. Wet stone and citrus on the nose. On the palate, pear fruit along with a bit of petrol and lemon peel. Underlying minerality and good acidity.
The Ravines Riesling turned out to be an excellent pairing. Perhaps this should come as no surprise — the grape with its origins in Germany paired particularly well with the cabbage and mustard on our plate, elements that might be found in many a German dish as well as this St. Patrick’s Day classic.
As I started planning for our March 2021 making of corned beef, I realized I had never tried a rosé with corned beef. I had a bottle of the 2019 Sin Banderas Yakima Valley Rosé (13% ABV) on hand, and thought that I would give it a try.
The Yakima Valley rosé is a Grenache based wine. Bright cherry bubblegum on the nose. On the palate, watermelon fruit with a hint of salinity. A light herbal note – thyme I’d say. The wine is medium bodied, well-balanced and pleasant mouthfeel.
This rosé from Sin Banderas is definitely a winner with the corned beef and cabbage (and one I’d like with a lot of foods!). It has a enough substance for the beef, and the bright flavors cleanse the palate after bites of the salty and mustard flavors.
For a successful rosé pairing, stay away from the lighter pool side sippers. You want something medium to full bodied to work with corned beef. I’m thinking a Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo might work nicely.
Red wine pairings
Although one might think of red wine first with any dish centered on beef, this is the category that we have found tougher to make work.
We opened the 2015 Lucien Boillot & Fils Bourgogne ($30, 13% ABV) for the first pairing experiment with our St. Patrick’s Day meal.
The Burgundy flavor profile, on the other hand, just didn’t mesh well with the salty corned beef and cabbage. The red wine has cedar notes and a touch of coffee, leading to some clashing tastes on the palate with corned beef. I’d say the Burgundy is a fine wine, just needs a different food partner.
For my second round of testing corned beef wine pairings, I asked for a few suggestions for a red wine to try, and Zinfandel was mentioned. Zin had recently worked well during our wine with chili tasting, so I thought I’d try it with the corned beef.
We tried the 2016 Flying Cloud Zinfandel ($19, 14.5%) from Paso Robles. This Zin has a subtle floral nose, with plum fruit and oak notes on the palate. A more refined Zin than some, it opened up in the glass and worked quite well with the corned beef. The fruit forward aspect of the wine seemed to help make the pairing work.
In 2021, I tested the 2018 Brancott Estate Marlborough Pinot Noir ($12, 13% ABV) from New Zealand along with the Sin Banderas Rosé. I get light violet notes and cinnamon on the nose of this Pinot. On the palate, cherry fruit and baking spices, with a bit of tannic bite on the finish.
The New Zealand Pinot definitely did better with the corned beef and cabbage than the Burgundy we tried previously. I would say the light body and fruit forward aspect of the NZ bottle made it work. Also, moderate alcohol content at 13% is a plus. Look for similar characteristics if you want to pick a Pinot pairing for corned beef.
I have also tested a French Syrah / Grenache blend, the 2015 Les Chemins de Felines Minervois ($11, 13% ABV). Blackberry fruit taste, with some slate in the background. Made with 80% Syrah, 20% Grenache.
The Minervois is good wine for the price, and a better match than the more expensive Burgundy..but not as good a match as the white wines we liked. I’d also go for the Zinfandel or New Zealand Pinot over this bottle.
Corned Beef with Wine Conclusions (for now!)
We have been quite pleased with the white wine pairings we have tried for corned beef. But of course, not any white wine will work with this Irish meal. The white wine needs to be full-bodied to stand up to the beef, as well as having some acidity to work with the funky aspects of the cabbage.
Our results with red wine for corned beef and cabbage have been more mixed. Pinot Noir tends to be a versatile wine for food pairings, so I was a bit surprised that the red Burgundy didn’t do better in the pairing. The more fruit forward Zinfandel we tried seems to play along well with the corned beef and cabbage flavors.
Pinot Noir is typically more earthy than fruity in its characteristics, particularly so from Burgundy. While Pinot’s earthiness works well with many dishes, it didn’t come out a winner with our corned beef and cabbage. Our experimenting suggests you should pick a more fruit forward red wine if you want to serve red with corned beef. So in the Pinot department, go for light and fruit forward, more than earthy characteristics.
Our recommendations are based on several rounds of sampling and pairing, along with the background research. We will do some more experimenting and update accordingly! Meanwhile, if you find some good wine with corned beef and cabbage, let me know in the comments!