The Cabinet

of Dr. Callegari

Breakfast Wine

There is one subject on which I find myself in strong agreement with the Italians. Like milk and daytime television, a hearty breakfast is something that should be reserved for children and the elderly or infirm. Sure, everyone needs to have a little something to get the day going, but a coffee and a hard boiled egg or a yogurt should be enough to get you through to the first real meal of the day (NB: in case you were wondering, breakfast is NOT the most important meal of the day, unless you make breakfast for a living). Cultures that prescribe a hearty breakfast are on the whole obese, pale, and lethargic. Can this be a coincidence? The brunch obsession is worse still: the sign of a people in decline or, one that has gone from barbarism to decadence without passing through civilization. If ever your midday toast must be described as both "French" and "stuffed" you have arrived in a dark place. That said, brunch is clearly here to stay, and sooner or later all of us are going to be eating eggs that have been cruelly punished at the hands of a subpar line cook while listening to a conversation about bridal flower arrangements. But there is a bright side: society has decided that it is acceptable to start drinking fresh out of bed if it is in the name of brunch! Sure, the bottomless mimosa is unquestionably a prophecy of future woe, but if you choose wisely you can finally have the excuse you've been looking for to get into the good stuff before noon.

The marriage of fresh peach puree and prosecco in a true Bellini is definitely delicious, and a properly made spicy Bloody Mary can rectify all manner of past indiscretions, but don't rule out a glass of wine just because the sun is only just peaking over the horizon. Matching a wine to your breakfast is surprisingly easy and a great way to explore food and wine pairing. If you're out, wine is often a safer bet than pitcher-prepared cocktails being poured by the D team at your local brunch establishment, and if you're home, the sound of a cork popping will flood the boring breakfast table with anticipation. The best part is, anything goes: low-alcohol, off-dry, semi-sparkling or effervescent, white, rosé or red. Yes, even red wine can be a welcome morning addition, and not just for old men sunning themselves by the Mediterranean sea. Many red wines are made to be served slightly chilled and are ideal companions for exactly the kind of over the top nonsense Americans are always trying to pass off as a reasonable morning meal, like steak and eggs or sausage McMuffins (although McDonald's is probably not the place to try this experiment).

If you're looking for bubbles, try pétillant naturel (French, natural, so hot right now) or vinho verde (Portuguese, lively, very inexpensive), both lightly sparkling and low in alcohol, perfect for getting the day started right. For whites, all the northern Italian/Austrian/German grapes are good bets: Gewürtztraminer, Sylvaner, Riesling...anything aromatic and acidic will do well with your eggs. You can't go wrong with Provençal or Spanish rosés, but if only for the sake of showmanship, the next time you host brunch pull out some chilled, light-bodied reds and shock your guests with how avant-garde you are. Italian Schiava is ideal for this, or if you're in the mood to push the envelope, try to find a bottle of Loire Valley Chinon, one of my favorites. It tastes like gravel and raspberries and makes quiche feel like a treat instead of a punishment.


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