Wine for Breakfast (April 25, 2003)
Champagne, historically, is the only alcoholic beverage you can drink
for breakfast and people won't look sideways at you.
Does this mean that all other wines and spirits, for that matter
are verboten before lunch?
Why should we not be able to enjoy a refreshing glass of Beaujolais to
complement the bacon and eggs? Or a little Banyuls with the croissant
and strawberry jam?
I am not suggesting that you need a belt of Bourbon to kick-start the
heart in the morning, but a little alcohol with breakfast can be a restoring
and invigorating experience. In the Cognac region, home of France's longest-lived
citizens, a farmer's breakfast will start with a glass of orange juice
mixed with cognac. And the Italians, whose zest for life is the envy of
other nations, correct their morning espresso with grappa.
The champagne breakfast is an established gastronomic tradition, although
a restaurateur friend of mine believes that champagne by itself is breakfast
enough. But, then, he's a Montrealer and probably subscribes to the sentiments
of Alain de Vogüé, a former director of Veuve Clicquot. I
once asked him when was the best time to drink champagne. His reply: "Before,
during and after."
Only the British understand breakfast, even if they have not thought
it through to its logical conclusion. Breakfast, first of all, has to
be cooked. It has to be substantial to set you up for the rigours of the
day. But it must also be digested (all that porridge, all those sausages,
scrambled eggs, bacon, kidneys, kippers, kedgeree...) Now, the pH of wine,
its measure of acidity, is about the same as the pH of our stomach acid,
which means that wine aids in your digesting process. So if you believe
in a hearty breakfast, think about serving some wine to help ward off
In my younger days I courted a lady friend with breakfasts of kippers
and champagne, and heaven knows those smoked herrings are hard to digest.
(You need the driest undosed champagne you can find, a Blanc de Blancs
preferably, and if you really want to impress your partner make it Salon
or vintage Ployez-Jacquemart.)
Personally, I think it is a sin to mix champagne with orange juice or
anything else a blasphemy for which perpetrators will have to face
the wrath of Dionysus on the day of judgement. However, if you are foolhardy
enough to transgress in this direction you might try grapefruit juice
instead or orange juice (more refreshing) or mango or peach juice (more
exotic). But a warning: don't brush your teeth before you have champagne
for breakfast. Colgate does nothing for Krug.
I asked Robin Mines, my wine writer colleague from Vancouver, what alcoholic
beverage she enjoys for breakfast. "If it's a hair-of-the-dog type
morning," she offered, "Asti Spumante with the one I love, clothes
Another wine writer friend, David Lawrason, is a fan of Moscato d'Asti
for breakfast, because, he says, it goes well with grapefruit and is also
low in alcohol. For those who are concerned about alcohol in the a.m.
I have this advice: go for German Riesling from the Mosel. These wines
can be as low as 7.5 per cent alcohol and they'll wake up your taste buds
like nothing else. Or you can use wine in preparing your breakfast. Heating
wine or spirits drives off the alcohol and you're left with the flavour.
The Burgundians make a dish I once tasted in Beaune eggs poached
in Beaujolais. Once you got past the colour they were delicious. I have
also made French toast using egg nog instead of eggs and milk. Amazing.
Other possibilities: Silvaner with ham quiche, dry Muscat with fresh
fruit, Gewurztraminer with bagels and lox, Pinot Blanc with a cheese omelet.
Leave your options open. You never know what might work.
Just remember, when it comes to lifting a glass of wine at 9 a.m., as
Confucius says: "Somewhere in the world, the sun is over the yardarm."