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Burns Night: Wines and whiskies to match with haggis

Whether you're Scottish or you merely remember a good day trip to Edinburgh, Burns Night is an excellent excuse to reach for the much-underrated haggis, not to mention those neeps and tatties. Here are wine styles that we would suggest choosing to match your dinner, plus some Scotch whisky advice for traditionalists.

Pairing wines with haggis on Burns Night – in brief:

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Various renditions of Robert Burns’ ‘Address to a Haggis’ will be read aloud at Burns Night dinners on Friday 25 January.

Haggis has provoked poems, fluffy toys, banning orders and – perhaps more than anything – outright curiosity during its rich history as a national dish of Scotland.

It’s the traditional inclusion of sheep’s lung that led US food safety officials to prohibit haggis imports in 1971; a ban that still stands, albeit next-door Canada lifted restrictions last year and some companies have created alternative recipes to side-step US rules.

But don’t let all that put you off. Done well, and from a quality source, haggis can form the focal point of a delicious dish, accompanied by the obligatory ‘neeps and tatties’. Our advice would be to ask your local butcher rather than heading to the supermarket.

Vegetarian haggis is also available, although it’s best to keep this beyond the nose of traditionalists and offal lovers at the table.

Scotch whisky may be a natural reaction to the sight of haggis entering a Burns Night supper to the sound of bagpipes, 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, especially for January, but here is what several members of Decanter’s tasting and editorial team advise for haggis. We’ve also added a couple of ideas for whiskies below.

Harry Fawkes, digital

If you are leaving the Scotch whisky until after the haggis, you are going to need a wine that cuts through the cream, can deal with the spice of the ‘chieftain puddin’, yet won’t over power the subtlety of the oats and meats.

Look no further than Northern Rhône or other cool climate Syrah; the black peppery spice and high acidity with blackberry fruits will ‘tak [their] place’ alongside your Burns night delight.

Tina Gellie, editorial

I’m always surprised at how peppery haggis is – not spicy, but peppery. 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.

Simon Wright, tastings team

I’m resisting red and going for an assertive 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.

Natalie Earl, tastings team

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.

Scotch whisky ideas

Richard Woodard, Decanter contributor and contributing editor at Scotchwhisky.com:

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.

Chris Mercer, Decanter contributor

If looking at Scotland’s more peat-driven whiskies, a classic Ardbeg 10 year old most certainly has peat and smoke but also some peppery spice and sweetness that would combine well with haggis.

My personal preference would be to keep richer expressions for after the meal, so as not to overpower the dish. That said, try Talisker 30 year old, or perhaps Lagavulin 16 year old, if you want a richer, more intense style with the food and are prepared to spend a little more.

Alternatively, it’s very much the season for something like Balvenie Doublewood 17 year old, with its rich fruit, honey and sweet spice, which should stand up to the rich flavours of your Burns Night supper and be a reliable companion for the rest of the evening.

This page was updated on 24 January 2019.

Read about Scotland’s wine pioneers this Burns Night

Top ten whiskies to try

See more food and wine matching advice on Decanter.com

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