Authors and poets generally write about what they know. In that case, some of his more popular poems suggest Scotland’s bard Rabbie Burns was clearly acquainted with matters of the heart (A Red, Red Rose) and nature (To a Mouse). However, the two poems that will be aired most frequently at Burns Suppers across the country in the coming days show that he also had a passion for food and drink.
Tam o’ Shanter tells of a farmer who spends a little too much time at a pub in Ayr on market day, describing Tam’s consumption of beer and whisky. Let’s just say that he appears to exceed his weekly recommended level of 14 units. And the other is the Address to a Haggis. Here Burns praises the haggis, among other things comparing its moistness to the delights of a whisky. And, while it is Scotland’s national drink that will have pride of place for the toasts that accompany the centre of attraction, there is room for some excellent wines to match the food on the 260th anniversary of the Bard’s birth.
Typically, a Burns Supper menu will feature a broth, followed by haggis, neeps and tatties, then cheese with oatcakes. If you are planning to celebrate with a traditional line up, there are some wine choices that lend themselves perfectly to the occasion. A full-bodied Scotch broth is the ideal partner for a fresh Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand
which has the zest to cut through the hearty nature of the soup, or a Pouilly Fumé such as this one from Jonathan Pabiot
which has all the classic characteristics of the Loire and is also organic.
The main attraction, of course, is the haggis – known as the ‘chieftain o’ the puddin’ race’ to Burns and his followers. The spicy nature of the dish makes it a great match for an earthier red such as this example produced by Chateau Ollieux Romanis
which has strong flavours of cherry and liquorice, or for white lovers a Little Beauty Riesling
is sufficiently complex. But, perhaps surprisingly, the haggis has some characteristics that are similar to those found in foie gras, meaning that an Austrian Spatlese such as that one from Kracher
is worth a try.
If your cheeseboard includes a variety of Scottish cheeses, made from cow, sheep and goat milk, you are keeping your options open for what to drink. The red or the sweet white you opened earlier should go down well and round off the supper before you embark on the artistic element of the evening.
And then, naturally, whether it is reciting poems, singing the popular Burns songs, or merely engaging in chat about the cleverness of the man’s work, you should bring the evening to a close with a fine Scottish malt. Our only recommendation here is that you don’t make the mistake that almost proved fatal for Tam o’Shanter and attempt to ride your horse home afterwards.
Have a great Burns night!