Whether you’re really celebrating Easter in the old-school sense, or marking the passage of spring with a glass and some friends, there are few times of year that so call for celebration. Getting around to it calls for some planning.
We fret over the depths of winter, but somehow anything heavy, heavy, heavy will do in winter. Come spring though, when we really come back to life, suddenly we’re at a loss as to which wine will go best. The American trend seems to lean away from the big formal Easter Sunday dinner and toward a brunch-style gathering. While that welcome informality makes for some much more social and easy-going camaraderie, let’s hope, it also takes a little pressure off the choice for the perfect wine.
Like any time of year, the way you’ll be cooking and the toppings and sides are going to determine what you’re pouring. Baking, grilling and sautéing are very different processes, but for brunch, it’s the sauces, fruits and toppings that become doubly important. Eggs or quiches are more flavorful, not less, and so they very often require a more flavorful wine.
In a general sense, for early afternoon and brunch, we’re looking at Pinot Gris, Chenin Blanc and many Rieslings. These are slightly more acidic wines with more fruit flavor, but medium to light in body. We’re looking for the acid to highlight the flavors of the food, without overwhelming it. And generally, unless your serving literally dozens of people, let’s leave the mimosas out for the moment.
Rieslings in particular stand out with eggs (and here with salmon, too) particularly as the morning starts to spread into the afternoon. Rieslings tend to be more medium bodied wines, and though they are not terribly popular in the states, there are some very good and affordable options available. Drier Rieslings go well with most brunch items and the spicier the dishes, the sweeter you’ll want your Rieslings.
On the other hand, a whole variety of Italian Proseccos, like the Terre Deor Delle Venezie Prosecco Rose, make nice replacements for Champagne or a similar sparkling wines. It still goes very well with omelets, fritatas or quiches for which brunch is famous. Normally you’ll want a fresh, round wine, perhaps some citrus, peach, and a little mineral. This one suffices very nicely.
Before we get to the carbs that dominate so much of brunch, let’s talk about your one “big taste” breakfast food. Even at 3 in the afternoon, bacon is going to be the taste to beat (or in this case, to match). Something equally robust needs to be a little buttery, but hopefully medium bodied. A Chardonnay may very well be called for. It’s spring after-all. With butter, almond, lemon, and a medium finish, the 2010 Domaine Seguine Manuel Vielles Vignes Poully Fuisse [ https://www.tewksburyfinewine.com/wines/2010–Domaine-Seguine-Manuel-Vielles-Vignes-Poully-Fuisse-Chardonnay-w0824063as ] makes a very nice afternoon toast and will stand up next to all that bacon.
For a lot of us, though, brunch is always more about carbs. Pancakes, pastries and French toast, normal toast or bread are just as good as eggs and tend to show up in far greater quantities. You’re right back to thinking about toppings – and fruit. Your spicier white wines are going to cover most of your bases. Pinot Grigio is probably too rich, but a more northerly Pinot Gris with highlights of vanilla or cinnamon will go well with most fruits or even maple. If you really are sticking with coffee and Danishes, some of the yeast in sweeter breads really is better complemented by those same Champagnes we snubbed above.
Then again if you plan on going with a medium to light bodied red, try a Pinot Noir, Barbera or Gamay. There lighter, but still provide lots of fruit and will go well with some of the other fruits or fruit toppings on the table. For steak and eggs, you are ok with a medium Merlot. But that should be as velvety and comforting as possible.
And like any time of year, experimenting a little before hand, testing out a few bottles, flavors and textures goes a long way toward making your final decisions the right ones. No one ever argued against a “practice-run Saturday brunch” – even when your big show is coming up the next day. Invite some trusted confidantes and don’t be afraid to try out some new combinations and something extra special too.