The haggis challenge – Burns’ Night 2014
Ouch! It’s a recurring theme when you spend time with Ave and Al (remember this one?). Last night we made our annual pilgrimage to West London for their now legendary Burns’ night soirée; they may be dangerous company but they certainly know how to put on a party – great food, great company, loads of laughs and far too much booze. As well as delicious Macsween haggis, neeps and tatties, the magnificent Mike Dale from Umami delicatessen treats us to a cheese master class; magnificent artisan cheeses to educates and excite our palates.
This year I wanted to bring some interactivity to the evening’s wine, so Al and I ventured out to Majestic in the afternoon to pick out a selection we felt would match up well with the haggis dinner. The objective of the evening was to find the ultimate wine to accompany the mighty haggis. Haggis is a rich and spicy dish so we selected robust wines that could hold their own against the delicious savoury pudding. We ended up with a couple of Grenache-based wines, a Shiraz, Tempranillo, Carmenere and Pinotage. We also chucked in a couple of whites (Albarino and Gruner) just for the sheer hell of it!
The whites were delightful but were snaffled way before the address to the haggis! In fact, when Mike tried the Gruner he gave us an early taster of one of his cheeses – it was a match made in heaven for Gorwydd Caerphilly. The cheese really brought out the citrus notes in the Gruner and the white pepper finish balanced beautifully with the Caerphilly’s acidic bite. The Albarino wasn’t such a hit with the cheese, but was a rather wonderful rendition of this week’s #newwinethisweek:
Domaine Wachau Grüner Veltliner Weingärten Weissenkirchen 2012, Wachau, Austria (Majestic £9.99 or £8.99 when you buy 2)
A classy, well-balanced Gruner with delicious apple and citrus fruit, a delightful streak of acidity and a warm and long white pepper finish. At £8.99 this is a real bargain and was perhaps my favourite wine of the whole evening. 92 points
Martín Códax Albariño 2012, Rías Baixas, Spain (Majestic £12.99 or £10.99 when you buy 2)
There are two Martin Codax Albarino’s available at Majestic, my strong recommendation is to pay the extra £2 for this one as the cheaper option is rather thin and flaccid. This one however, is not. Lots of peach upfront with a good appley acidic backbone. There is a hint of spicyness and very attractive salty-minerality adding to the complexity but what is really wonderful is the rich texture that fills and envelops your whole mouth. Really good stuff. 91 points
Then it was onto the haggis and onto the reds. Al made his address to the haggis, with everyone at the party given a line of the poem to translate… and I had the privilege of making the fist incision:
“His knife see rustic Labour wipe,
And cut you up with ready slight”
It was then up to the party-goers to decide on their favourite wine by placing a cork in front of their preferred beverage. As you will see in the write-up, every one of the wines got at least one vote and I have to admit to enjoying every single one of them… a little too much if today’s headache is anything to go by!
CUNE Rioja Reserva 2009, Rioja, Spain (Majestic £13.99 or £9.99 when you buy 2)
I became a big fan of CUNE wines when I got the chance to taste wines from 6 different decades at the end of 2013 – and this one didn’t disappoint. Still very young and with a long life ahead of it, the wine boasts the strawberry and vanilla lusciousness I always look for in a good Rioja. In amongst the fruit is a touch of leather and just a hint a dark spice, which marries nicely with the sweet vanilla. Tannins are still quite aggressive but just starting to smooth out. The haggis overwhelmed the delicate fruit but a very good wine indeed. 90+ points (6 votes for best wine)
Errazuriz Carmenere 2012, Aconcagua Valley, Chile (Majestic £9.99 or £7.99 when you buy 2)
Lovely smooth texture with beautifully integrated tannin, there is a massive whaft of hard green herbs on the nose that really makes this wine stand out. Nice dark plum fruit on the palate, with lots of rosemary and thyme as well as some warm spice and chocolate. I wasn’t 100% sure about this at first but it certainly benefited from the food. 89 points (4 votes)
Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Shiraz 2011, Clare Valley, Australia (Majestic £14.99 or £11.98 when you buy 2)
This is an exceptionally well-made wine and was my favourite of the night… although not with the haggis. Blackcurrant and black plum fruit with a delightful eucalyptus and violet supporting cast. Gorgeous mouth-watering acidity and smooth graceful tannin. The finish is long and smoky but struggled to compete with the pepperiness on the haggis. 92 points (2 votes)
Domaine Notre Dame des Pallieres Rasteau 2010, Rhone, France (Majestic £12.49 or £9.99 when you buy 2)
Vacqueyras was my tip for Burns’ Night last year and I’m glad to say this Grenache-based wine from the Southern Rhone was certainly one of the best matches. Lashing of blackberry fruit, dried herbs de Provence and lots of pepper on the finish make this a very delicious wine – it probably needs at least another 12 months to show it’s best but still extremely enjoyable right now. 90+ points (5 votes)
D’Arenberg The Custodian Grenache 2009 (Majestic £13.99 or £10.99 when you buy 2)
It’s like drinking a whole fruit bowl! Red cherries, blackberries and even a dash of red currant. Then there’s the warm but perfectly integrated black pepper and warm spice, beautifully elegant tannins and long, mellow, fruity finish. This is a quality wine and the extra 12 months in bottle versus the Rasteau made it my best match for the haggis, and received the most votes. I love D’Arenberg wines and this is the first time I have tasted The Custodian… It certainly won’t be the last time. 92 points (7 votes)
Barista Pinotage 2013, Western Cape, South Africa (Majestic £9.99 or £7.49 when you buy 2)
This was the wildcard – Pinotage is a seriously divisive wine and so it proved again! The nose is so ripe, redolent of old elastic bands and mocha… It’s almost enough to not bother going any further, But once you pluck up the courage to take a sip you are rewarded with a hedonistic blend of ripe (even over-ripe) cherries, plums, chocolate and coffee. There is a touch of black spice and a super luxurious texture. I actually really like it and thought it was great with the haggis. But better still, it was the perfect partner to Quickes Ewe’s milk Cheddar, which Mike says tastes of roast lamb! 90 points (1 vote… Mr Michael Dale!)