What wine should you pair with Haggis?
Every food has a wine. Even if that food is James May's Canned Haggis.
Nobody wants to be a picky eater, but haggis is going to be a controversial food for most people despite their willingness to try it. Traditionally, haggis is made of a variety of minced sheep innards, oats, and seasonings. If you find it in the US, the one ingredient it will legally be lacking is sheep's lungs. If you're curious to try some, but live outside of the UK, ask your local butcher before ordering online.
The Personal Experience
Wine tasting events adore regional delicacies like haggis, which is actually where I tried it for the first time. I was shocked by how unoffensive it actually tasted. Up until that moment, haggis was portrayed as a food you dared someone to eat, as opposed to willingly enjoy it on your own. It was comically satisfying when I finally tried it. It did not make sense to me why haggis gets such a bad rep here in the states. Granted, the haggis was probably not canned, and it was dressed up as a fancy hors d'oeuvres on grilled sourdough. What truly made this such a memorable bite of food for me was the Northern Rhône Syrah I was drinking at the time. Beer and whiskey seem far more appropriate for haggis, but that delicious red wine did such a good job at making this highbrow haggis shine. And as a bonus, the salty gaminess in the haggis really flattered the wine. Or as James May would say, "helped inform the flavor" of the wine.
James's Final Product - Fried Egg and Canned Haggis with Brown Sauce and Evil Little Chilies.
Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner... Haggis is the Winner
Even though I just made that saying up, Haggis, like sausage, is honestly a pretty versatile food. With that said, whatever you eat with haggis will not be as noticeable as the haggis itself. For that reason it becomes an easy focus for a wine pairing. Haggis has the salts, fats, and savoriness that are going to soften any wine, bring out it's vibrant flavors, and lift up the aromas. But what wine can you find in the shops that will balance out that mucky, funkiness?
Courtesy of WineFolly.com
Southern Burgundy to Northern Rhône Red = Rich Pinot Noir & Gamay to Mild Syrah
The French wine region of Bourgogne (Burgundy) runs south into Beaujolais, and eventually connects to the Rhône Valley. Most grocery stores will stock something from these regions with the haggis-charming-characteristics you are looking for. Burgundy from the Cote d'Or is usually quite pricey, so I would recommend shopping for the less fashionable Côte De Charlonnaise and Mâcconais wines. If all else fails, Pinot Noir from Marlborough, New Zealand, or the Willamette Valley in Oregon will do just fine. If you're looking for a heavier wine than Pinot Noir, (but not too heavy), Syrah from the Northern Rhône villages are perfect. The more luxurious Côte Rôtie, Chateau Grillet, and Hermitage villages produce excellent Syrah based wines, but have become extremely expensive, ranging from a modest $30 a bottle to over $250. Value comes from villages like Saint Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage, and sometimes Cornas. If you're out of luck, I would search for a Northern Californian or Washington State Syrah. You can find tasty examples of those for under $30 all day.
If I had to pick one...
Bang for your buck, I would pick a Cru Beaujolais, which is not to be confused with Beaujolais Nouveau, the sweet, juicy, seasonal red wine. When a village is designated as a "Cru" in Beaujolais, it means they have particular knack for producing quality dry red wines made of Gamay.
Courtesy of WineFolly.com
Domaine des Fonds Fleurie is a fantastic wine for just about any meal because of it's acidity and balance of fruity, floral, and earthy characteristics. The Cru Village of Fleurie has a slightly warmer climate than it's Northern neighbors in Burgundy, and just the right amount of cool clay in their soil that allows the Gamay grapes to ripen slowly to perfection. It's a great wine if you want to preserve a little gaminess from your haggis, but still offer a luscious melee of contrasting flavors to soften any sharp angles in your dish. The haggis will bring out some of the more fruity and floral notes in your wine, while dialing back some of the herbaceousness. Wines from Fleurie and other Crus range between $18-$50, with some good generic Beaujolais-Village wines coming in under $15 a bottle.
Thank you for reading! Share in the comments what you think of this article. Let me hear your opinion on the matter of pairing wine, and/or eating haggis. Feel free to critique, and spark debate. Tell me more about what you want to know about wine and spirits. And lastly, follow and share if your heart so desires
- The Angry Somm