“Go fetch to me a pint o wine,
And fill it in a silver tassie.”
He was lionized as the Ploughman’s Poet, the Bard of Ayrshire, writer, lyricist and favourite son of Scotland. Robert “Rabbie” Burns, Robden of Solway Firth, is the most famous Scot ever, no matter how many times Braveheart replays on TV. William Wallace got nothin’ on Robbie, who penned “Scots Wha Hae” and “Auld Lang Syne.” And yes, the bard liked his wine.
Robbie Burns day falls on Friday, January 25th, commemorating the writer’s birth date in 1759. Revelers will listen to pipers, sip wee drams of Scotch and scarf down balloons of Haggis. The Irish will join the party, if only for a day, donning the plaid and pouring a stout or two. This is the Scottish beer I plan to crack open on Friday.
Innis & Gunn Rum Finish (224881, $3.35) offers the thought of dried apricots, soaked and swelling, drizzled with agave and then stewed with black licorice and carob. Bold Scot this Innis, “well acquainted with the touch of the velvet hand like a lizard on a window pane.” Holy malted milk Batman! Just slightly chilled, this Edinburgh elixir hints at sweet and stout. Happiness is a warm Gunn. 90
If it must be Scotch for you on Friday, look to Margaret Swaine for advice. The Robert Burns World Federation noted that Rabbie “would be astonished at his fame today,” and I would add that he might be rolling about in his proverbial grave at the thought of pairing fine wine with his countrymen’s modern-day celebrations. Let’s be honest here. Scotch and beer don’t speak to every Scot on the planet and certainly not to the rest of us who want to partake in the festivities. So, out on another limb I go. Failing the sudden import of Campbells Bobbie Burns Shiraz, here are four wines to raise a glass to the poet on January 25th.
The grapes: Gaglioppo, Greco Nero, Nerello Cappuccio, Magliocco and Sangiovese
The history: Mostly indigenous varietal blend from Calabria at the toe of the Italian peninsula
The lowdown: Exotic and unusual, a red wine unlike anything you will have ever tried
The food match: Traditional Haggis
Odoardi Savuto 2006 (303057, $13.95) is something I have never nosed before. Truffles, mushroom, soy sauce, balsamic, caramelized onion and an Arran-esque sherry cask note to boot. Juicy toffee candy apple, coffee, earth, tobacco and fruit leather. So unusual and absolutely worth the $14 flyer. 87
The grape: Moscato Bianco
The history: A versatile varietal that produces a number of wine styles and sweetness levels. In Piedmont it is light, sparkling and sweet
The lowdown: Weighs in at a mere 5.5% abv, like beer, perfect for a Burnsian night
The food match: Champit Tatties
Ricossa Antica Casa Moscato D’Asti 2011 (72272, $15.95) effervesces ever so slightly and whiffs white flowers. Sweet and honeyed, nearing a golden amber reminiscent of a Highland Whisky. Marmalade, waxy lemon and candied ginger are present and the wine is never cloying. Studious prototype. 89 @SelectWines_BC
The grape: Merlot
The history: Kitschy label originated in St. Helena, California. Often donated to charity auctions
The lowdown: A wine you might want to hate but it’s astonishingly beautiful and complex
The food match: Lamb, Barley, Wilted Greens and Roast Roots
Marilyn 25 Anniversary Merlot 2009 (306738, $39.95, B.C. 491357, $41.99) may be to some a “wee, sleekit, cow’rin’, tim’rous beastie” but it’s really more man than a mouse. Firm and taut yet rounded and full-bodied, this is voluptuous and irresistible stuff. Hang out with Marilyn and you might get to meet the kind of people Maf met. Some do like it hot and with a noticeable smokey peat, alcohol note, hot is what you get. A bombshell. 90 @MarilynWines
The grape: Riesling
The history: From John Howard on the Niagara Peninsula
The lowdown: Deeper than many of its peers, probably because “we kept them outdoors for a few days longer”
The food match: Cranachan
Megalomaniac Coldhearted Riesling Icewine 2008 (243519, 200 mL, $29.95) is a wonderful rendition of winter harvest Ontario Riesling. Candied peach, succulent orange marmalade and vanilla conjoin with Speyside-like lavender and a red, red rose. Grape as barley, wine as deep elixir. A fascinating conundrum. Icewine possessed of a Riesling riddle, wrapped in a brave mystery, inside a coldhearted enigma, “that’s sweetly played in tune.” 92 @megalomaniacwns @ProfileWineGrp
Good to go!