Wine and whisky to make it a Burns Night to remember

Benromach Scotch Whiskey and Bremerton Selkirk Shiraz

Benromach Scotch Whiskey and Bremerton Selkirk Shiraz - Credit: Archant

BURNS Night dinners are the annual celebratory tribute to the life, works and spirit of the great Scottish poet, Robert Burns.

Celebrated on the poet’s birthday, January 25, Burns suppers conform, more or less, to eating of a traditional Scottish meal accompanied by Scotch whisky, and the recitation of poems by Robert Burns to celebrate both the writer and the haggis.

Whisky is the usual choice at Burns suppers, either malts or blends. Contrary to popular belief, adding a little water to your malt should improve rather than dilute the flavour, although some whisky drinkers may not take kindly to watering down their drams!

It is traditional to pour a dram over the haggis but traditionalists may recoil from this preferring to enjoy the two separately! The best choice of whisky to accompany the haggis is that based on your personal preference whether it’s a peaty Islay whisky or a smooth lowland or aromatic Arran example.

If you don’t like whisky, then robust red wines make a good accompaniment.

Some delicious wines to accompany haggis are based on complex, concentrated robust mouthfilling wines made from grapes such as the Shiraz in Australia or Syrah from the Rhone Valley and Hawkes Bay in New Zealand. Some of these are made by Rebecca Willson, the winemaker at Bremerton wines in Langhorne Creek, South Australia. Her Scottish family heritage is borne out by the names of the wines such as the Selkirk Shiraz which is an excellent Shiraz that has a rich spicy flavour with a hint of pepper and a long, lingering finish that matches well with the spicy elements of the haggis.

This grape in the Rhone Valley, known as the Syrah to distinguish it from its Southern Hemisphere cousins has similar lovely complex ripe berry fruit and peppery spice notes with more structure from balancing but more obvious tannins.

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Look out for wines such as the Jean Luc Colombo Les Forots Cotes du Rhone which is richly aromatic with a very fine structure and taste of raspberries, blackberries and blueberries on the palate, This is also true for wines such as the Esk Valley Syrah from Hawkes Bay with lingering notes of spicy stewed plums and underlying complexities of dark chocolate, savoury mushrooms and spicy prunes.

The rich ripe peppery fruit notes of the Malbec grape such as that made by Trivento, Trapiche or Bressia to name but a few are also great with a Burns night supper.

White wines don’t complement haggis, neeps and tatties quite so well, but would match up to a starter of the traditional cock-a-leekie soup.

Choose a white with lovely aromatic notes such the New Zealand Pinot Gris based wines made by Escarpment in Martinborough, Esk Valley in Hawkes Bay amongst others with the lovely broad fruit flavours of pears and white pepper. Other tasty selections would be a southern French Viognier such as that from Domaine de Vedilhan or the Secreto Viognier made by Viu Manent in Chile. They are crisp white wines with the characteristic ripe apricot and peach fruit notes matched with good acidity and a hint of spice and white pepper.

In the words of Robbie Burns:

“Some hae meat and canna eat,

And some wad eat that want it;

But we hae meat, and we can eat,

Sae let the Lord be thankit.”