Friday, 19 January 2018

Perfect Burns Night wines

Photo: Happy Wanderer (CCL)

Burns night is upon us and you know what that means? Another excuse to drink. And of course celebrate the life and poetry of Robert Burns and all that he has done for the great nation of Scotland.

Burns Supper is always associated with that classic of Scottish delicacies, haggis. For those who don't know what haggis is, it's a pudding made with sheep offal minced together with onion, herbs, oats and suet, encased in a sheep's stomach. Don't let the sound of it put you off, it is delightful.

Now we've covered the food, what about the drink? What Scottish drink could you possibly serve with Scottish food on a Scottish night? If you said whisky then five points to Gryffindor! Haggis is traditionally served with a dram, and the toasts are always accompanied by a dram.

But what if you don't want to go diving into the whisky at 7pm and be flat on your face by 9? Or for some obscure, unknown reason, you don't like whisky? Well, I'm going to take you through a few little numbers to wash down the Haggis, or keep you flinging until morning.

Wines to match haggis

Wine and offal are often difficult to match. In this case you ideally you want something fairly robust, but that goes well with gamey flavours. Pinot Noir matches well with the gamey flavours, but will be too light too deal with everything else.

An alternative would be the Barbera grape. Hailing from Northern Italy in the Piedmont region, this thin skinned grape is low in tannin but can produce high acidity wines. When made well and balanced with the right amount of oak ageing, it can produce beautifully fresh wines with high acidity, and a smooth, sweetly spiced finish.

Sainsbury's TTD Barbera D'Asti 2016.
A classic example, this wine has a beautiful berry freshness about it. Typically low in tannin and high in acidity like all good Barbera wines.
£8.50 from Sainsbury's.

Zinfandel from California will also be a good choice. Heavier and more tannic than Barbera, it produces more powerful wines with flavours of cocoa, coffee and herbaceous characters.

Cline Ancient Vine Zinfandel 2014, California.
Bold, juicy and full of earthy notes, this wonderfully ripe Zinfandel will match the haggis perfectly. The nose has fresh red fruit, coffee and vanilla while the palate follows up with a very smooth texture, firm tannic structure and slightly spicy, vanilla heavy finish.
£13.99 mix six offer at Majestic.

If you really don't like red and want to go for a white, make sure to go for something rich and full of flavour. Dry whites like Sauvignon Blanc just won't do the job. Even the oakier Chardonnays will struggle.

Try Pinot Gris from Alsace. While it is the same grape as Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris is harvested much later allowing the sugars within the grape to develop further and produce more exotic flavours. An excellent example of this is:

Tokay-Pinot Gris, Rolly Gassmann 1996, Alsace.
Wonderfully rich and full bodied, it has flavours of lychee, mango and slight citrusy character, this bold wine will stand up more than most other whites.
£34.25 from The Vinorium.

Wines with a Burns Night theme

If you're happy with whisky for dinner, but want something with a little bit of a Scottish twist without being too gimmicky, why not try either of these.

Jim Barry McRae Wood Shiraz 2012, Clare Valley.

There's nothing like an Aussie Shiraz, and this is a prime example of what it's all about. Beautifully perfumed on the nose, the palate is packed with black fruit with rich, powerful and savoury spice. An absolutely stunning wine... and it's got tartan on the label!
£24.99 from Waitrose Cellar.

Bobbie Burns, Rutherglen Durif 2015.

Do you really need an explanation as to why I've chosen this? Aside from being an astounding wine, the name says it all. Durif, otherwise known as Petite Syrah, produces highly concentrated wines with robust characteristics of cassis, blackcurrant, peppery spice and smokiness. An absolute powerhouse.
£14.99 from The Wine Reserve.

Are you celebrating Burns Night? Let us know what you plan on drinking!

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