IT’S that time of year again – time to don you kilt, sharpen your knife and head out into the fields to catch the first haggis of the season for Burns’ night on Monday.
If you’re celebrating the bard’s birthday over the weekend then you’ll be looking for something suitably special to serve alongside your neeps and tatties.
I’m a big fan of pouring Scotch with haggis, especially if you’ve decided to drench the chieftain o’ the pudding race in a whisky sauce.
There are also plenty of rich and malty dark Scottish ales on the market that will pay homage to a decent Burns’ supper.
But if you’re looking for red wine then there are some great options available too, especially when you opt for a fuller-bodied sun-drenched red.
Look out for wines like Cotes du Rhone or Châteauneuf-du-Pape that often have exciting spicy notes to help pick out the pepper in the haggis.
To whet your appetite, here is a selection of reds that will match beautifully with our national dish, with a range of prices to suit a range of pockets.
Terrazas Selection Malbec, 2013, £13.95 (Wine Direct)
As we found out when we went around the world in 13 Malbecs last September, there are plenty of exceptional bottles of Malbec available to accompany food. I love the rich, velvety feel of this example from Argentina, with deep blackcurrant and black cherry flavours wrapped up in subtle vanilla warmth. A smooth and classy wine for any would-be Burns who’s looking to woo their own Jean Armour.
Terrazas Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013, £12.50 (Tesco)
The sister wine to the Malbec, this Cabernet Sauvignon displays more structure, with its high levels of tannin making me suck in my cheeks but also making this a great accompaniment for food. The familiar cab sav liquorice and vegetal notes work well with earthy neeps and tatties, while the hints of vanilla and cinnamon from the oak barrels in which the wine has been aged are well-integrated and don’t over-power the fresh blackcurrant flavours.
Les Crouzes Old Vines Carignan, 2014, £5.49 until 2 February then £6.49 (Co-op)
This is good old-fashioned French red wine at its best. Carignan was planted throughout the south of France following Algerian independence to help fill the void left by the loss of the African nation’s production, but it’s fallen out of favour in recent decades. Here, grapes from 40-year-old vines have been used to produce a softer wine, with red cherry and redcurrant flavours, bright acidity and smooth tannins, giving it the structure to stand-up to the haggis. Great value.
Numanthia, 2011, £35.05 (Ocado)
Something very special and something of which I’m sure the Bard would approve. If you’re pushing the boat out then this 100 per cent Tempranillo from Spain’s Toro region could be just the ticket. Despite spending 18 months in oak barrels, the vanilla and sweet spicy flavours are really well-integrated into the wine, allowing the black fruit to shine through. Well balanced tannin and acidity make this a real star at any Burns’ supper.
Les Jamelles Reserve Mourvedre, 2013, £6.49 until 2 February then £7.49 (Co-op)
A bargain at £7.49 and a steal at £6.49. Mourvedre is a red grape that needles oodles and oodles of sunshine to ripen properly and it found it during 2013 in the south of France. Deliciously deep and rich, this wine is packed full of black plum flavours and has plenty of tannins to work well with meaty dishes.