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A Little Something with your Offal?
What goes with haggis?

© Michael Vaughan 2004
National Post Weekly Wine & Spirits Columnist
 Saturday, January 24, 2004


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Offal, a word borrowed from the Dutch afval in the fourteenth century, is usually associated with the less glamorous parts of a slaughtered animal. Literally meaning ‘off fall’ it is most glamorized in the traditional Robbie Burns signature dish haggis. This balloon sausage-like affair is a chopped up mixture of sheep’s heart, liver and lungs with oatmeal and seasonings all stuffed into a sheep’s stomach. It’s usually served with bashed neeps (mashed turnips) and lots of Scotch, the latter enabling one to gather up the strength to actually eat the stuff.

One wonders whether Robbie Burns ever thought that this ‘great chieftain o’ the pudding race’ would be served ever after to celebrate his birthday which happens tomorrow night, January 25th. I decided to take a pass on my planned whisky-haggis taste-off, which was designed to find the perfect matching Scotch. For me, haggis makes almost anything taste good. And so, it is with no apologies that I salute Burns with a delicious warming snifter of gently sweet, herbal-honeyed, barrel-matured Glenfiddich Malt Whisky Liqueur (475939 General List $39.75), the perfect on the rocks preprandial (perhaps with a twist of citrus) or after-dinner sipper.

From today’s Vintages releases, one sip of Nannerl Williamsbirnen Schnaps (919381) at $39.95 for 500 ml will help you forget that you ever tasted haggis. This Austrian pear liqueur (38% alcohol) is clear in colour and comes in an attractive 500 ml violin-shaped bottle celebrating its Salzburg connection. It’s sheer music on the palate - very attractive, dry, well-balanced, slightly spicy, honeyed, ripe pear flavours that dance on the tongue.

Moving on to today’s whites, three impress. The hand’s down best buy hails from the French Pays d’Oc. The fairly mature Hugh Ryman 2001 Viognier Richemont Premium Barrel Fermented (944819) at only $12.95 would make the most scrupulous Scot jump for joy. On the palate it is medium-full bodied and surprisingly well structured with dry, rather cedary, apricot, lime and Anjou pear flavours that show excellent length. Best with poultry and white meats.

Another best buy is the solid, rather toasty, flavourful Bodegas Muga 2002 ‘Muga’ Blanco (958736) $15.95. This well-made Spanish Rioja is a barrel fermented blend of 90% Viura and 10% Malvasia, which some might even mistake for being Chardonnay. The nose has attractive, vanilla-directed, faintly honeyed, ripe lemon-melon fruit. It is rather intense and very dry on the palate with baked ripe lemon and melon flavours followed up by a lingering, peppery, cedary finish. A step up from the preciously shipped 2001; it is still quite youthful and, unlike the Ryman Viognier, can still evolve for another year or so.

Those who enjoy tropical fruit flavours will relish Viña Caliterra 2001 Chardonnay Arboleda (606772) $18.95. Originating in Chile’s Casablanca Valley, the nose is somewhat spicy with ripe lemon-lime fruit. It is dry but not austere on the palate with rounded and yet still tangy, ripe lemon fruit along with almost sweetish, tropical fruit cocktail flavours. A versatile, by-the-glass, crowd pleaser, which is perfect for poultry.

Moving on to the reds, there are a quite a few best buys. As Syrah (or Shiraz as they say in Australia and elsewhere), the best buy highlight would be the ripe black cherry purée flavoured Barossa Valley Estate 2001 Moculta Shiraz (536383) at $18.95. Hailing from South Australia’s Barossa Valley, this isn’t your chucky, idiosyncratic effort, but shows lots of refinement focusing on accessibility and balance.

Ditto for a surprisingly juicy, ready-to-drink Syrah from Northern Rhone. While the Saint-Joseph commune is a still relatively unknown, it can offer great value. While many of the better efforts will be fairly extracty and smoky, Domaine Courbis 2000 Saint-Joseph Les Royes (973719) $33.95 may strike some as being a tad light. Nevertheless, it compensates for this by its ample, spicy, rounded, ripe black cherry flavours. It isn’t inexpensive, but it is delicious.

If you are looking for something with more grip, check out another best buy, this time from the Minervois region of French Pays d’Oc. Robust and earthy, Gerard Bertrand 1999 Les Matins d’Aurore (952804) at $15.95 is the antithesis of the previous two fruit-driven Shiraz. Extremely deep intense purple colour, this blend of 40% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 20% Carignan and 10% Mourvèdre spent eight months in barrique. It has a complex, hot, earthy, prunish nose with some spicy herbes de Provence notes. On the palate it is solid, dry and still rather youthful with roasted plum and red pepper purée flavours followed up by a long lingering finish. A robust effort that will still evolve nicely over the next year or two!

Those interested in exploring the universe of fine Pays d’Oc wines can explore them at the biennial trade fair Vinisud from February 16-18, which takes place in Montpellier the heart of the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Some 1,200 exhibitors and 25,000 professional visitors will be attendance. For information go to


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Copyright Food & Beverage Testing Institute of Canada 2004
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