Celebrating the birth of Scotland’s bard Rabbie Burns on 25 January 1759 is a highly ritualised affair. Here, we decode what happens at this evening of traditional dishes and time-honoured speeches – and suggest some libations for when the whisky isn’t taking centre stage, because Burns Nights can last a long wee while...  

First course

Cullen Skink. Which is? Skink from Cullen, of course. A fishing village on the North Sea coast known for its smoked haddock chowder. Burns’s Selkirk Grace is recited – Some hae meat that cannae eat, Some hae nane that want it, But we hae meat and we can eat, Sae let the Lord be thankit –  and with such creamy sumptuousness the feast is begun.

Serve: Gusbourne Brut Reserve 2017 has the generous citrus fruit and bright acidity to lift and balance this hefty soup. Our still Chardonnay Guinevere 2019’s smoky mineral note works well too and is available in a limited number of celebratory magnums.

Main course

Haggis, neeps an’ tatties. At large Burns Night gatherings, expect the skirl of bagpipes and noisy applause as the main event is proudly carried in to the company. Burns’s Address To A Haggis is passionately delivered in the broad Scots tongue. Considerate hosts may provide a translation, but there’s no mistaking this meaty, mealy fare – Warm-reekin’, rich! 

Culinary note: Home hosts in the know don’t boil their haggis. Disgorged from its casing and spread in a flat casserole, haggis is best served oven-burnished. A little whisky poured over never goes amiss. 

Serve: This is Pinot Noir territory. Our sparkling Blanc de Noirs 2018 is 100% Pinot Noir and, with a minimum of 27 months on lees, plus oak barrel ageing for added complexity, it stands up beautifully to a well-spiced haggis. Alternatively, our still Pinot Noir 2019 comes in magnum.


Heaven forfend anyone who calls Cranachan a kind of Eton Mess. The Scottish version includes oats, honey and whisky down amongst the raspberries and cream. Toasts (the liquid sort) are raised as the bard’s Immortal Memory is celebrated with readings and song. And as the end of the evening twirls towards us, even dancing is not unknown.     

Serve: Time for the bright sparkle of Gusbourne Rosé 2017. The elegant red fruit notes, with a little barrel-aged red wine added before secondary fermentation, go perfectly with this rich dessert. A fitting end to an evening rich in story.



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