Having written for Scottish newspapers and magazines for almost 15 years, compiling Burns Night recommendations has become a well-trodden path for me.
I have carried the tradition of suggestions for 25 January forward onto the website for three reasons.
First, it gives me chance to talk about beer and whisky as well as wine.
Secondly, some of the matches with food also work well other spicy dishes so the commendations have wider applicability that just with haggis.
Finally, Scots pioneered the discovery that – like St Andrew’s Day and Hogmanay – Burns Night is a great way of lightening up one of the year’s most dismal months and reminds us of the glimmer of light at the end of winter’s tunnel.
As ever, pictures and (where possible) hyperlinks should help you locate the product in question.
Starting with White Wine
Like pork and many cheeses, haggis defies expectation and can work better with white wine than with red.
Applying the “complement” school of food partnering (rather than the more avant-garde “contrast” style), I feel that the best results come from linking spice with spice – and, so, regularly use gewurztraminer.
That raises eyebrows among some wine colleagues but versions from Alsace in particular have the necessary texture and spiciness while the variety’s usual Achilles heel (limited acidity) is not a problem here.
Here are three options.
For a classic, textured version, I suggest that you choose Alsace’s rich and slightly honeyed 2018 Wolfberger Gewurztraminer (£9.25 at the Co-op and 13.5% abv) with its lychee and orange flavours, touches of ginger and of sweeter spices and an atypical burst of grapefruit acidity.
A slightly less full version (that I think works a modicum better with haggis) is 2018 Kuhlmann-Platz Gewurztraminer (from £10.99 at Majestic and also 13.5%) which has similarly good acidity (lemon this time) and balances it well with floral white plum and baking spice flavours but controlled spice.
Head to Chile though for a very much lighter option (that will work especially well with Asian cuisine) to enjoy Casablanca Valley’s 2019 Morandé One to One Gewurztraminer (from £7.99 at Majestic and13.5%) and the sherbet influenced mango and peach flavours it brings to the party and marries with modest spicy elements but rather less richness.
What about red wines though?
Unlike gewurztraminer with white wines, I have yet to find a stand-out red wine grape variety that consistently works successfully with haggis.
Sometimes a good Rhone shines brightly only for the next vintage (good in itself) to fail to harmonise well with haggis.
Rather to my surprise, this year it was chianti (often too rugged and tannin fuelled for the job) that provided the winning combination.
Possibly because it is only medium bodied and limited in tannin, 2018 Monte Guelfo Chianti (£9 at WoodWinters and 13%) won the day exhibiting nutty black cherry and red currant flavours with good acidity and suggestions of clove, minerality and thyme.
And for Beer?
Chefs sometimes contend that beer is a better companion for food than wine – not least because of the wider range of textures it can offer.
With haggis, Williams Bros Fraoch Heather Ale remains an excellent complement with its herb and spice backbone and hints of heather.
Since that is not always easily accessible throughout the UK, I can also recommend something from the other side of the border.
Southwold Blonde Beer (£2.50 at M&S for 50cl that should be available instore if not online, and 5%) has a nice texture with good citrus balance yet nothing excessively hoppy (hops can be bad news for haggis) and just the right cereal background to be sturdy enough to hold its own with haggis yet never boss the show.
Finally to whisky
Of course the Address to the Haggis demands Scotland’s national drink but whisky’s alcohol level and its use here as a toast make food matching less important – but obviously avoid anything that overpowers haggis or seriously conflicts with its flavours.
My current choice is the 12 year aged Bowmore Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (£25 – instead of £40 until 26 January – at selected Morrisons stores) with its chocolate and heather honey background and acidic grapefruit zip.
What fabulous value for money that represents!
Furthermore, as befits probably Islay’s most lightly peated option, the whisky's smoke and brine influences are normally nuanced – but do seem to step up a gear with haggis.
Incidentally, the same Morrisons promotion has the light, smooth and slightly salty Aerstone Sea Cask Whisky down £10 (to £20) also until 26 January.
Zoom Tastings Return
After the Christmas break, the 2021 Uncorking MidWeek Zoom Tastings season begins with a look at core wines in Lidl and in Aldi.
These are joint activities with Diana Thompson who runs the excellent Edinburgh Uncorked events and who undertook over a hundred Zoom tastings during 2020.
Do drop across to the Wine Events Scotland website to book a place and to see today or tomorrow the specific wines being considered at the events on 10 February (Aldi) and 17 February (Lidl).
See you again on Monday folks with our usual selection of Top Tips and round up of what’s happening with supermarket promotions.
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