In the immortal words of the very dead Jimmy Durante, ‘Everybody wants ta get inta da act.”
What else would explain Aberdeen chef Christopher Trotter’s decision to plant grape vines in his hometown of Upper Largo in Fife, where they get 101 rainy days a year? The wettest city in the United States is Mobile, Alabama, and by contrast, gets 59 rainy days per year. Key Largo can’t grow wine grapes, so why would he imagine that Upper Largo could?
Because he’s a Scot, that’s why. And Scottish people are always doing stuff that defies reason. They put an ‘e’ at the end of the word ‘shit’, for example. When they’re ‘druth’ they drink till they’re ‘blutered’, pronounce ceilidh like it rhymes with Bailey, have as their ‘Official Animal’ an animal that doesn’t exist, and as a national symbol, associate themselves with a weed that other countries associate with Round-Up.
Worst of all, in 1745, the Scots challenged the entire British army while dressed in kilts, which makes as much sense as Trotter challenging the entire wine world while dressed in a raincoat.
Still, one must admire the pluck of these plucky Scots, mustn’t one?
Pluck Brings Us to Haggis…
No act of Braveheart bravery, no Jacobite charge across Culloden Moor, no wearing of skirts into bars not specifically catering to cross-dressers can match the courage of a race who sits to a meal made of pluck—sheep offal—mixed with oatmeal and stuffed inside a descending colon.
The English edition of the Larousse Gastronomique refers to haggis as a ‘pudding’, which is true Orwellian doublespeak—if tomorrow Jell-O introduced Sheep Guts Pudding, I imagine Kraft stock would drop faster than a Wallenda in a hurricane.
Incidentally, Larousse Gastronomique also introduces haggis with the perfectly appropriate disclaimer: “Although its description is not immediately appealing…”
Nonetheless, the Scottish love their haggis, along with other culinary WTF?-eries as Forfar Bridie, Cock-a-leekie, Crappit heid, Cullen Skink, Rumbledethumps and Skirlie—all of which sound as repulsive as anything on the menu at that state-side bastion of Scottish food, McDonald’s.
It would appear that these dishes, whatever they are, do not immediately represent themselves as being wine-compatible. Am I wrong? To even considering eating respiratory organs, crappit or skirlie, I imagine that I would first need to consume multiple double shots of single malt, Scotland’s only palatable product, not wine.
Which is why, when Richard Meadows, a wine merchant at Great Grog Company in Edinburgh, summed up Chateau Largo’s only wine like this…
“It’s not yet drinkable but, that said, I enjoyed it in a bizarre, masochistic way”
…it occurred to me that Chef Trotter (not to be confused with Chef Charlie, who’s even deader than Jimmy Durante) had inadvertently created a whole new niche in wine writing:
Pairing inedible food with undrinkable wine.
Sometime in the near future, I intend to publish an entire book dedicated to the subject, but in the meantime I can whet your lack of appetite with a few choice suggestions:
Rocky Mountain Oysters are farm animal testicles that have been peeled, coated in flour, pounded flat and deep-fried. Nobody ever says they taste like chicken, because chickens do not have testicles. I recommend a bottle of Château Balac from the cellar of French novelist Honoré de Balzac, which you can purchase at auction in Bangkok for the price of a family jewel.
Balut is a Filipino dish made by boiling a fertilized duck embryo alive in coconut sap; key to full enjoyment is being able to recognize the corpse of Prenatal Donald while you eat. Perfect wine accompaniment would be a bottle of 2015 Duckhorn, which is made from the primary buds of merlot vines harvested last autumn and boiled in coconut sap before being fermented.
Surströmming is a Swedish dish made of fermented herring; it comes in cans bulging from pressure as the fish continues to decompose on store shelves. It’s said to have the most putrid odor of any food in the world, and so, what could be a better palate-mate than the foulest smelling wine in the world, shéjiu. Rice wine infused with an entire cobra and/or black scorpion, the respective venoms are deactivated by the alcohol, but no worries—rotten herring meat probably carries its own set of pathogens.
Casu Marzu, of course, is the ne plus ultra of gross foods, the acme of awful, the nabob of nastiness; it makes haggis sound like melt-in-your-mouth manna from Manitou. It’s Sardinian goat cheese purposely infested with fly larvae, whose digestive action fast-forwards decomposition until the cheese is suitably runny. The bugs remain in the cheese as it served, and may launch themselves as much as six inches when disturbed. How, when matched with this mezzanine-level nightmare, can any adult beverage hope to compete? Well, there is always that succubus of sauces, wine’s answer to cod liver oil, the brewski of Beelzebub and the libation of Loki the Liquidator—[yellow tail].
Back to McBagpipe Land
Chef Trotter maintains (with a straight face) that he’s on to something with Scottish wine, and credits his insight on global warming; when Fife becomes Loire-like in a generation or so, he believes, his vines will already have been in the ground for thirty years. Everybody else will just have to play catch-up.
He says, “If you look back to the English wine-making industry 30 years ago, it was the laughing stock of the wine-drinking world.”
Apparently, he’s prepared to don his kilt this very minute and march across the moor to wrestle that particular crown away from the monarchy, and with the first vintage of undrinkable wine under his belt, he may have better luck than Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Although I hate to rain on Christopher Trotter’s parade, I suspect it’s been doing that already since the first week of January.