Burns Night: Scotland’s wine pioneers
Scotland may be better known for its whisky than wine, but that hasn’t stopped these Scots venturing to more reliable wine regions down through the centuries. Read more below and find a wine for the night itself…
As Julian Hitner writes in ‘How Britain Shaped the Wine World’, Scottish entrepreneurs were strongly involved in the Bordeaux wine trade.
Early négociants such as Scottish-born William Johnston played a key role in promulgating many of the most important technological advances of the 18th century, most of which are still in use today, says Hitner.
These include the use of sulphur as a disinfectant (a Dutch invention), topping up, racking, using egg whites as a fining agent and using barriques for top wines. Only later did winegrowers in the region adopt these advancements directly.
Below, we look at more examples of Scottish influence on winemaking.
Château Smith Haut Lafitte
Bordeaux and Scotland have deep historical links. The Graves estate Château Smith Haut Laffite was purchased by Scottish man George Smith in 1720 – where the ‘Smith’ in the name comes from – and he is credited with developing the estate.
Cockburn’s Port was founded in 1815 by Scotsman Robert Cockburn and his brother John, who were already wine merchants in Leith, Scotland. The Cockburn family continued to run the company for many years, and it is now owned by the Symington family.
Steve Law is making Syrah in Sonoma. Law is originally from Scotland, but he lived in France and learnt about wine. He took his inspiration to California in 2007 and started making Northern Rhône-style Syrah.
El Escocés Volante
Born and bred in Scotland, Norrel Robertson MW moved to Spain in 2003 to produce his own wine – aptly named El Escocés Volante; ‘The Flying Scot’ in Spanish.
Christine Kernohan set up Gladstone Vineyard in Wairapara, New Zealand, in 1996, producing the ‘12,000 Miles’ range – named for her distance from her home of Glasgow, with a luggage label as part of the design.
Scottish winemaker and oenologist, Jamie S. McCulloch, moved to Valais in Switzerland to start making wine in 2007. He makes a range of six wines.
Wines from Scottish pioneers:
Updated in January 2018 with wines to try.