Whether you’re serving your haggis with neeps and tatties or nachos and pizza, Peter Ranscombe has some ideas for vinous accompaniments.
ARTICLE one of Scotland’s constitution clearly states that all haggis must be consumed alongside neeps and tatties, while sipping on a dram of Scotch and wearing a kilt or tartan skirt – right?
Wrong! It’s time to rip up the rule book and think again about our national dish.
Chefs up and down our nation are coming up with creative ways to serve the great chieftain o’ the pudding-race, after chasing it around a hilltop a few times for good measure, with some producers evening making – dare I say it? – vegetarian haggis.
It’s time to up our game when it comes to picking drinks to pair with haggis too; no longer is it enough to dust off that bottle of Bell’s languishing at the back of the drinks cabinet.
I’ve selected six New World wines to go with some of my favourite new wave haggis dishes – and a couple of classics too.
THE DISH: Haggis bonbons
THE WINE: Silky cinsault
I’m a sucker for a bonbon, drawn to them on a menu like a haggis-obsessed moth to a peppery flame, especially if that menu happens to be at one of the Bon Vivant Group’s outlets in Edinburgh, like The Devil’s Advocate, Lady Libertine, The Register Club or the firm’s eponymous bar on Thistle Street. Head for a red from one of the varieties usually found in the South of France, with enough fresh acidity to take on the breadcrumbs, like carignan or cinsault. A fine example is the 2018 Leeuwenkuil Bushvine Cinsault (£10, Marks & Spencer) from Swartland in South Africa, with its strawberry and raspberry flavours and enough fresh acidity and tannins to handle the deep-fried bonbons.
THE DISH: Haggis nachos
THE WINE: Fruity viognier
Viognier is a misunderstood grape; so often dismissed as fancy and floral, it can make an excellent match to spicier foods, with its rounded body and ripe peach and lemon fruit flavours ideally suited to peppery haggis nachos, especially if you’re turning up the heat with a chili pepper or two too (but not necessarily in a tutu). Most famous for its appearances at Condrieu in the Rhone valley and in other spots along the south coast of France, it’s also found an intriguing new home in warmer climes like California and South Africa. Look out for The 2014 Crusher Viognier (£14, Villeneuve Wines) hailing from Clarksburg in Cali’s Central Valley.
THE DISH: Haggis pizza
THE WINE: Savoury sangiovese
Best-known as the grape behind Italian classics such as Chianti and Brunello, sangiovese has the tannins to stand up to doughy pizza and the savouriness from its sour cherry flavours and fresh acidity to match a tomato topping. Add haggis into the mix and I’m looking for something a little fruitier and riper to combat the already savoury mix. New World sangiovese is an exciting option and few bottles are more enticing than the 2017 Payten & Jones Valley Vignerons Yarra Valley Sangiovese (£22.99, The Wine Reserve), with its concentrated ripe raspberry, red cherry and raspberry jam flavours, without sacrificing any of the traditional roast meat notes.
THE ‘DISH’: Haggis crisps
THE WINE: Chocolate-kissed carménère
Does anyone else enjoy plain crisps with a square of Dairy Milk? No? Just me then. That’s the taste I’m recreating here. It may have started out life as a lowly blending grape in Bordeaux, but carménère has found its true home in Chile – once everyone worked out what it was. Mistaken for merlot for many years, at its best the grape has distinctive chocolate flavours and merlot-like plum fruit notes, often accompanied by coffee and sometimes a twist of mint. An example I adore is the 2014 Miguel Torres Cordillera Carmenére (£17.99, Drinks & Co), which has a lushness that works so nicely with Mackie’s new haggis, neeps and tatties-flavoured crisps.
THE DISH: Chicken Balmoral
THE WINE: Buttery chardonnay
Whether you call it “Chicken Balmoral” or “Balmoral Chicken”, a chicken breast wrapped in bacon and stuffed with haggis is a treat. When it comes to picking a wine pairing, it all comes down to the sauce – will it be whisky or will it be peppercorn? If you’re adding Scotch or brandy to your sauce and fancy a wee nip to accompany the dish then don’t let me stop you. But if you fancy something to work with the chicken and haggis combo then I’d suggest a buttery chardonnay like the 2017 Bread & Butter Chardonnay (£13.99, Majestic Wine) from California, which fulfills that Ronseal promise and does exactly what it says on the tin, with its buttery, vanilla flavours and rounded mouthfeel.
THE DISH: Classic haggis, neeps and tatties
THE WINE: Syrah. Or should that be shiraz?
What’s in a name? Syrah or shiraz? To massively over-simplify things, I tend to think of syrah as being made in the cooler-climate style of the Rhone valley in France – with cracking black peppery notes – while shiraz is a riper and more sun-drenched beast, a la Australia’s Barossa valley. I’ve opted for South Africa’s 2016 Saxenburg Private Collection Shiraz (£19.50, K&L Wines) with its fresh acidity and pretty flecks of redcurrant and raspberry in amongst the ripe blackberry and blackcurrant flavours. Although it’s full of ripe fruit, there’s still a savoury coolness to its acidity, built up thanks to the winds that cool its spot between the Atlantic and Indian oceans.
Read more of Peter Ranscombe’s blog entries about whisky, wine and other drinks on The Grape & The Grain at https://www.scottishfield.co.uk/grapegrain/