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Burns Night: Wines to match with haggis

Burns Night is an excellent reason to reach for the underrated haggis, not to mention those neeps and tatties. Here is some wine inspiration for your dinner, plus Scotch whisky advice for traditionalists.

Ideas for pairing wines with haggis on Burns Night:

  • Northern Rhône (Syrah)
  • Viognier
  • German Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir)
  • Beaujolais Cru (Gamay)
  • Australian Shiraz-Grenache
  • Chilean Pais

Will you be piping in the haggis on 25 January? Burns Night won’t be such a social occasion this year for obvious reasons, although a quick search on Eventbrite suggests there are various virtual events and online tastings to stream into your living room.

Haggis is a focal point of the Burns supper, of course, its star quality celebrated with the traditional reading of Robert Burns’ poem, ‘Address to a Haggis‘.

Yet its rich history as a national dish of Scotland has not always been enough for regulators. It’s the traditional inclusion of sheep’s lung that led US food safety officials to prohibit haggis imports in 1971.

UK government officials were seeking to end the ban as part of post-Brexit trade talks with the US, it was reported last year.

In the meantime, Haggis maker Macsween of Edinburgh celebrated Burns Night 2020 by shipping vegetarian haggis across the Atlantic. Branded as ‘Scottish Veggie Crumble’, it was the company’s first export to the US in nearly 50 years.

Made well, and from a quality source, haggis can indeed have star quality on the plate. Your local butcher would be a good place to ask for advice.

As the comments above suggest, you can also find vegetarian options, even if this might not immediately delight the traditionalists and offal lovers at the table.

Many Burns Suppers involve a dram or two of Scotch whisky, not least to toast the haggis, but what if you want wine with dinner, too? After all, Robert Burns wrote about drinking a ‘pint o’ wine’ in his song ‘The Gowden Locks of Anna’.

A pint is perhaps pushing it, but below is some advice that Decanter team members offered on the question of matching wine with haggis in 2018.

Wines with haggis

‘I’m always surprised at how peppery haggis is – not spicy, but peppery,’ said Tina Gellie, who is now Decanter’s content manager, as well as regional editor for the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

‘And of course it is also dense, rich and meaty. As most people do on Burns Night, I have always paired my haggis, neeps and tatties with whisk(e)y, but if I were to choose a wine, I’d probably go for a juicy, fruit-driven red, where the tannins wouldn’t compete too much.

‘Maybe a cru Beaujolais, a fashionable Chilean Pais or Carignan or Australian Shiraz-Grenache blend.’

Natalie Earl, currently Decanter’s awards competition manager, said, ‘With vegetarian haggis, I’ll have a German Spätburgunder – both having an earthy, savoury character, and the Spätburgunder being light enough not to make the whole combination too rich.’

Simon Wright, presently Decanter’s events and awards logistics manager, said that he would opt for a Viognier. ‘Its broad flavour profile will pair well the herby, peppery rusticity and its oily texture should be enough to complement the weight of the dish.’

Scotch whisky tip

Richard Woodard, Scotch whisky expert and drinks writer and editor, told Decanter in 2018, ‘Glenmorangie Lasanta 12 year old makes a fine match.

‘This Highland single malt spends time in ex-Sherry casks – both Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez – which add layers of rich, dark fruits and chocolate to the signature Glenmorangie flavours of citrus and honey.

‘The rich sweetness is the perfect foil for peppery, savoury character of a fine haggis.’

This article was first published in January 2018. It was updated in January 2019 and has been updated most recently in January 2021.

Tasting notes: Inspiration for pairing wines with haggis

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