My Round: To a haggis

Robert Burns famously wrote an ode to it, but should you drink wine, whisky or beer with your Burns Supper?
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online

I've attended a Burns Night bash just once, if memory serves. And memory serves well enough for me to know that I had a great time, though the details lie in the brain cells that died that night through excessive consumption of Scotland's second-greatest contribution to world culture. (The greatest being, of course, Mr Burns himself.) The event took place at a pub of no particular note, and I wish I remembered it better.

I've attended a Burns Night bash just once, if memory serves. And memory serves well enough for me to know that I had a great time, though the details lie in the brain cells that died that night through excessive consumption of Scotland's second-greatest contribution to world culture. (The greatest being, of course, Mr Burns himself.) The event took place at a pub of no particular note, and I wish I remembered it better.

If I've resisted Burns Night invitations since then, it's only partly out of fear for what remains of my grey matter. It's also a result of my having turned into more of a wine-drinking kind of guy. A brave man it would be who turned up at Burns Night and asked to see the wine list. You might as well strut into a bikers' bar and demand a Bellini. That's what I thought, anyway, until I asked Sue Lawrence what she drinks on Burns Night. She replied almost instantly that she'd investigated the vexed question of matching drinks to haggis, and had concluded that an Australian Shiraz was the best solution.

If you're a regular reader of this column, as I devoutly hope you are, you may recall that I am a slob when it comes to food and wine matching. You may also know that I prefer to match native drinks with native food - which would make a good Scottish ale or a glass of whisky the natural partner for haggis. But when I get the nod from Ms Lawrence, Scottish born and bred, and one of the UK's finest cookery writers, I am willing to bend any prejudice.

She confirmed my own observations, in fact. When I last ate haggis, in June, in St Andrews, I acquired one of the splendid globes made by the local butcher. We drank wine throughout the meal, all bought from the city's outstanding wine merchant Luvians (where I spent so much time browsing that the manager thought I must be a shoplifter and followed me around). No one complained about it, least of all myself. And while Australian Shiraz didn't feature on the evening's drinks list, I know that a sweet, juicy example (like the one to the right) would have formed an excellent partnership.

It just goes to show that you can't be doctrinaire about these matters. Better to drink what you like, even if you sacrifice authenticity, than to drive yourself nuts scrambling to find the perfect pairing. This means that I may not go so far as to follow Lawrence's advice to drink a sparkling Australian Shiraz with the haggis tartlets with red-onion marmalade (in Sue Lawrence's Scottish Kitchen, Headline, £12.99). But I will look at all the options.

Apart from one , that is: I won't be breaking out the finest or most expensive bottles to go with a haggis. The food just doesn't need it or want it. When you're matching drinks with something as rugged as haggis, intermediate quality and intermediate price will do just fine. All the haggis drinks mentioned below are non-luxury items, with the possible exception of the whisky. But even that isn't a rare malt. It's a blended whisky of the highest order, a category that's often overlooked in the clamour for single malts.

And speaking, as we have been, of Australian Shiraz, there's one in the sale at Adnams (01502 727222, www.adnamswines.co.uk) that I can warmly recommend: Tim Gramp Shiraz 1999, McLaren Vale. This robust, spicy beast ranks among the best of McLaren Vale, and the price (£9.50 down from £12.50) is one of the deeper discounts in the sale. I'd leap on it if I were you, perhaps filling out the case with Vina 105 2002 (£5.50 from £6.50), an eminently quaffable Tempranillo from Spanish superstar Telmo Rodriguez. Come to think of it, that would probably be another match for haggis. I'm open to all suggestions.

Top corks: Three for haggis

Johnnie Walker Black Label (around £20, widely available) Impeccable balance and weight, with bags of smoky, malty, spicy sweetness and a mellow finish. One of the world's great blends.

Griffin Vineyards Shiraz 2003 (£3.99 from £4.99, Majestic) A soft, easy-to-drink example from south-eastern Australia. Absolutely not to be taken seriously but a very good buy at this price.

Skullsplitter Ale (around £1.29 for 330ml, www.beersscotland.com) Deep red in colour, prodigiously strong (8.5 per cent abv), remarkable rich flavours of dried fruits. Just handle with care.

Comments