Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Best Meal of the Day -- Brunch wines

Breakfast is "the most important meal of the day." Lunch is all too often fast food or something you scarf while you're plowing through the workday, since America hasn't adopted the tremendously civilized siesta. Everyone puts their focus on creating tasty dinners. I'd venture that upwards of 90% of wine pairings, tastings, et al focus on dinner.

But what about brunch?

Brunch is decadence. It's the "No alarm. I slept in today." meal. It's flexible -- go light or heavy, healthy or greasy. It's my most mood-dependent meal. At what other time will you see a Reuben, poached eggs, breakfast sausage (or goetta for the locals), fresh fruit and a panini happily coexisting on the same table? A good brunch means you've had a good time the night before -- either in a big group (which often means nursing a hangover along with your V-8) or with one other lucky person so that, come late morning, you're gazing moonily across steaming lattes.

Of course, if you're going to be truly decadent, you need wine. [I know, I know -- there are some of you out there saying "Beer. It isn't just for breakfast anymore," but let's move past shotgunning a Schaefer's to get ourselves going on a morning after.]

If you're thinking of wines to go with brunchiful goodness, keep it simple. Sure, you could put a lot of thought into finding the perfect wine, but just like with Thanksgiving, you're probably not going to have much success. Honestly, who has that kind of mental energy in the morning?

So, easy enough...Sparkling wine. You can't miss. No one's going to care. Most people's palates wake up more slowly than they do, so give them something that's basically going to cut through the clutter of foods and just plain ol' taste good.

If you're out and about and you want to impress a group without breaking the bank, order a bottle of Gruet Brut Sparkling Wine ($15). While it may sound like a French bottle, it's actually produced in New Mexico and, for my money, is as interesting as almost any sparkler out there. The reason, I suspect, is that it's made in the traditional French method, called "Methode Champenoise." (If you want to know more about that, I wrote about it once before.) The result is a very crisp, balanced sparkling wine that pairs with almost anything -- but dry sparkling wine really shines when you've got something that's a little bit (or a lot) fatty. So, if you need a plate of hash browns to go with that throbbing headache and queasy stomach, this will be the perfect hair of the dog.

For those of you who aren't big fans of dry wines, you're not out of luck. One of the best brunch wines out there is on the sweeter side -- Moscato d'Asti. Moscato d'Asti is, in general, a sweet, fruity, lightly carbonated wine. "Asti" refers to the Italian locale where the wine is made.Also, these wines are traditionally only between 5-6% alcohol, so if you're looking for something you can drink without catching too much of a morning buzz, this type of wine is a perfect choice. These wines generally have a lot of peach and pear flavors, and are quite refreshing. The nicest thing about them is that they're generally rather uniform in quality, so the majority are going to be decent, and usually around $8-10. The best I've tried is the Tintero 2007 Moscato d'Asti. (Many thanks to the Liquor Direct crew for turning me on to this one.) While it shares many of the same characteristics, for a couple of extra dollars, I thought its flavors were more defined and more interesting. See what you think.

Finally, there's the "champagne cocktail." Way back in January, I wrote about toasting in the new year with cava, and then saving the bulk of the bottle for morning mimosas. Now, honestly, if you're just mixing together some store bought OJ and some leftover bubbly, you don't have to be too choosy. That said, if you're doing this right, and you've got some fresh squeezed on hand, I'd prefer to use some relatively decent wine as a mixer. I've also discovered that "extra dry" sparkling wines make better mixers, largely because they have a little bit of residual sugar. I started the year with Freixenet and I'll finish the same way. I stand by Freixenet Extra Dry Cordon Negro Cava ($10) for any of your mimosa-making needs. It would also work well with kir (which is sparkling wine with crème de cassis) or bellini (sparkling wine with peach puree).

And, with that, The Vine closes the book on 2008. Your humble reviewer is going to take a couple of weeks off to let his liver recover, and I'll be back with more fun in the new year. Thanks to all of you out there for sticking by me in this little venture. You guys are my motivation, and I appreciate all the good vibes.

Have a great holiday season, travel safely, enjoy the parties, and may the new year bring you health, happiness, and wonder.

Later days.

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