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Wines and whiskies to drink on Burns Night

“Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,

Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race!

Aboon them a’ yet tak your place,

Painch, tripe, or thairm:

Weel are ye wordy o’a grace

As lang’s my arm.”

– Robert Burns, Address To A Haggis

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Haggis and Burns Night are like Champagne and Hogmanay (or New Year’s Eve for those sassenachs out there).  The 25th of January is the one day of the year where we mean Scots can force upon the entire nation that beautiful offal that is Haggis.

This traditional Scots dish is, for want of a better description, a sheep’s stomach stuffed with animal heart, liver and  lungs with added oatmeal and cooking spices.  It’s a rich, meaty, mealy and greasy dish full of wholesome nutrition, especially suited to these cold, January nights.  And, if you ask me, it is utterly delicious.  It is served with a mash of ‘neeps and tatties – which depending on who you ask are swedes/turnips and potato.

There are many Scots out there who will insist that the only drink one can serve with said offal is a generous pour of single-malt Scottish whisky.  If you’re inclined to agree, then there is one whisky I can recommend without any reservations.  My go-to malt is Glenmorangie Original – a 10 year old whisky crafted by Master Distiller Dr Bill Lumsden up in the Highland town of Tain, north of Inverness.

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Glenmorangie has a unique hard-water source which they use to create the wash (a light beer) to distil into whisky.  Coupled with some of the tallest whisky stills in use, the result is a delicate, complex and aromatic spirit.  It is aged in ex-fill bourbon casks, gaining soft, spicy characters and hints of caramel, coconut and vanilla.

If you prefer something a touch smokier, then fill your quaich with Cask Islay.  This small-batch whisky from the Western Isle of Islay is packed with floral spice, citrus, caramel and overlaid with smoky, earthy, peaten power.

For pairing with food, I highly recommend cutting your whisky with a generous pour of water – lest you not make it past the starters!  This will alter the character of your whisky and bring out more integrated flavours to enhance your food.

Whisky is not for everyone, however, and even I enjoy a glass of wine with my Haggis.  You need something gutsy to pair with the meaty, spiced flavours, and good acidity in the wine to help cut through the glorious, flavoursome richness.

You could go with something from Scotland’s Auld Alliance, and hit up France.  I’d go Rhône or Languedoc for something with a bit of heft, and my first pick would be our fantastic Definition Côtes Du Rhône.  Grenache and Syrah are the champions here, bringing a combination of body and juicy fruit with structure and peppery spice.  It’s packed with blackcurrant with loads of juicy, raspberry and bramble to back it up.  It’s got the weight, and the attitude, to see down a mealy-mouthful of haggis.

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On the far side of the world, South East Australia is festooned with Scottish heritage.  A drive through Barossa on the way to Clare Valley reveals a crash of German and Scottish influence, with town names like Angaston.   In Clare, you’ll find Jim Barry Wines, and their stunning Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon is a cedar and blackcurrant-scented delight with plenty of ripe red fruit to help coax out the spice in the haggis, and a delightful herbaceous twist on the finish.  Perfect for putting the wind up your kilt.

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My final pick is a brilliant all-rounder to bring us back to another European nation – Portugal.  Porta 6 is the wine that broke the internet (well, crashed our site for a few minutes).  As recommended by TV Chef James Martin on Saturday Kitchen, it’s a wine slightly lighter in body than my other suggestions, but still with glorious fruit and a lovely tannic grip to help cut through all the earthy flavours in your haggis.

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Finally, for a pure curve-ball, why not try a hoppy, fruity craft beer?  As it’s Burns Night, what better than a scurrilously good rogue of an IPA from the brewmasters at BrewDog? Punk IPA is their signature, hoppy pale ale, and goes brilliantly with the spicy, oaty meat in your haggis.

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If after all that, you really fancy a drink (I certainly do) then why not pop in and see our Wine Gurus in store? They’ll be happy to taste a few other wines with you, and introduce you to some stunning whiskies to enjoy.  Find your local store here!