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Wines to Serve with Brunch

Martha Stewart Living, April 2008

Brunch's charm lies in its varied, all-things-to-all-people character. The fare can be deliciously sticky-sweet pancakes, spicy Mexican chilaquiles, or grilled steak with poached eggs. Whichever direction you favor, brunch is a leisurely meal and the perfect opportunity to pour a glass of wine or share a bottle with friends. These pairings cover a number of brunch dishes and styles you're likely to encounter on weekends.

Croissants, Muffins, Coffee Cake

Serve Champagne
Because buttery pastries and quick breads deserve a bubbly with some of the complex, yeast-biscuit notes one finds in distinguished Champagnes. We like Moet & Chandon White Star ($35), an elegant sip and yet not so esteemed that dressing it down with a splash or two of fresh blood-orange juice would be out of the question.

A Brunch Featuring Lots of Bacon
Serve Chardonnay
Because Chardonnay aged gently in oak has expressions of butterscotch and vanilla that play off the salty-smoky jolt of good bacon. We like Childress Vineyards' 2005 Barrel Select Chardonnay ($15), which is buttery but lively and refreshing.

Steak and Eggs
Serve Merlot
Because if there were a comfort wine, it would be soft, velvety, easy-drinking merlot. It fits the most classic and indulgent of comfort proteins, steak and eggs, like a glove. We like Gundlach Bundschu's 2004 merlot from Sonoma's Rhinefarm Vineyard ($30), which has flavors of black cherry, green pepper, and minerals balanced on a spine of acidity.

Southern-Style Ham Steak with Redeye Gravy
Serve White Rioja
Because the light, sweet-tart playfulness of the grape Viura (from which most white Riojas are made or blended) is just right for the salt and smoke of a good ham and for the nutty, tannic quality of a redeye gravy made with strong coffee. We like the Rioja Blanco 2006 ($8) produced by Marques de Caceres. Its bright notes of green apple and ripe peach add a distinct, sunny dimension to this darkly savory dish.

Classic English Fry-Up
Serve Australian Rhone-Style Blend
Because the disparate elements on the plate of a classic fry-up -- streaky bacon, potatoes, roasted tomatoes, and kidneys -- call for a wine that brings them together, one with jammy-berry fruit flavors and an earthy undertone. We like Rosemount Estate GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) 2003 McLaren Vale ($25). It has just the right amount of spice to add nuance to the black fruit and vanilla, as well as a robust, attention-grabbing texture.

Huevos Rancheros or Chilaquiles
Serve Beaujolais (Chilled)
Because the heat of chiles, coupled with the mellow flavors of corn tortilla and egg, typify brunches inspired by Mexican or Southwestern dishes. The red-berry juiciness of the Gamay grape draws out the fruitiness in chiles, while the chilled wine cools their heat. We like the plummy, black-peppery palate of Michel Tete's 2005 Julienas from Domaine du Clos du Fief ($21), which offers a knockout match.

Sausage and Peppers
Serve Moscato d'Asti
Because sausage and Moscato d'Asti is a classic pairing, and for good reason. The riot of seasonings in a good sausage -- fennel seed, crushed red pepper, garlic -- call for Moscato's fragrant, peach-nectar flavors, which refresh the palate with every sip. We like Marchesi di Gresys 2006 La Serra Moscato d'Asti ($16), with its honeyed, nutty nuances.

Smoked Salmon
Serve Dry Hungarian Furmint
Because the dry white wines made from Furmint, a grape typically used in the dessert wine Tokaji Aszu, have a bracing lemon character that's like a squeeze of juice on smoked salmon. It balances the richly smoky, salty sensations of the fish. We like the Royal Tokaji Wine Company's 2005 Furmint ($14) because it has a firm lemon-lime character on the palate and aromas of green herbs, which conjure the dill and chives that typically garnish smoked salmon.

French Toast or Pancakes with Toppings
Serve Italian Prosecco
Because its dry citrus flavors and lively effervescence are the perfect foil for the thick, sweet toppings, such as maple syrup and honey, that are often drizzled on these brunch mainstays. But Prosecco is equally suited to pancake and French toast partners that possess more acidity and fruit flavor, such as apple, rhubarb, or currant compotes. We like brisk, fizzy Zardetto Prosecco di Conegliano Brut NV ($11), which has appetizing, complementary aromas of bread dough and apples.

Frittatas, Omelets, Quiches, Other Egg Dishes
Serve German Riesling
Because eggs are notoriously challenging to pair, but the gently sweet, round, and sometimes resinous flavors in Riesling give focus to the shyness of eggs and to the medley of vegetables -- onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach, and bell peppers -- that commonly appears in these dishes. We like the flavors in Robert Weil's dry Riesling from the Rheingau (2006, $30) for their fruit and mineral tones -- think star fruit and seltzer.