Drink & Dine: Wine Pairings for Brunch


At the peak of summer — when post-brunch fun might mean a walk on the beach or a lay down in a hammock with a good book — we offer wine ideas for standard brunch fare, as well as dim sum. Photo: Iryna Veklich/Getty Images

It’s a humble meal for the most part, but there is something strangely ritualistic about brunch.

It can’t be eaten by hand standing over the kitchen sink, as lunch on the fly can. It must be shared with at least one other person, ideally three others, as part of a larger, leisurely day that includes post-brunch shopping, promenading, movie-going or museum-strolling. And it must be consumed at midday on the weekend or an officially sanctioned holiday.

The food, too, should conform to its portmanteau handle of being half-breakfast, half-lunch. Lasagna, no matter how gooey or lovingly made, is never acceptable for brunch. Neither is fish and chips. But all baked goods and egg dishes get a green-light – including all breads, from Wonder to Challah, dipped in egg and then fried – as does anything featuring fruit, requiring syrup or well-sided with potatoes.

Given the stringent rules (upon which we all agree … riiight?), one might expect brunch to also involve only Mimosas and Caesars alongside tea and coffee. Yet if there is one area where brunch should be a bit more fluid, it’s the wine card.

To be clear: sparkling wine mixed with orange juice is terrific with brunch. It’s brunch’s flagship beverage for a reason. But it’s always fun to test limits, especially since dim sum also makes the list of awesome and acceptable weekend midday meals. And you can do better than Mimosas with that.

Herewith, at the peak of summer – when post-brunch fun might mean a walk on the beach or a lay down in a hammock with a good book – we offer wine ideas for standard brunch fare, as well as dim sum. Because sometimes, you must break the mould.


Wine for Eggs


Eggs Benedict is the brunch staple, whether it’s the classic poached eggs and bacon on English muffin smothered in hollandaise sauce or a variation featuring spinach, smoked salmon, avocado or faux-peameal. Here, an unoaked Chardonnay is your friend, with its fresh, subtle fruit offsetting the richness of the sauce. (For the benefit of time-pressed guerrilla home cooks using melted Cheez Whiz on poached eggs in place of hollandaise, you are also well-served here. Trust me).

Really, any egg dishes as well as tofu scrambles are a can’t-miss proposition with Chardonnay and those that identify as ABC (those who will drink “anything but Chardonnay”) might be surprised to discover just how lovely these enormously popular wines can be on their own without the added flavours imbued through oak aging.

If you remain steadfastly hostile to the grape, opt for Pinot Noir or Gamay Noir, light-bodied reds with an earthiness that will blend well with all the flavours on the plate. If possible, drink them slightly chilled. But really … just try the unoaked Chardonnay. Regular readers of this column will note that I am a tireless cheerleader of this varietal. But it truly is staggeringly versatile, and just so good.


Wine With Waffles, French Toast or Pancakes


In the throes of summer, it would be a pity not to have a lavish meal of pancakes, French toast or waffles with fresh, seasonal fruit like peaches, apricots, blueberries and raspberries. You could add maple syrup but why not sprinkle on some icing sugar and instead assign the sweetness factor to ice wine? Ice wine, made from frozen grapes harvested in the depths of winter, will pair as beautifully with waffles as with crème brûlée or other desserts of that order. With its rhubarb and strawberry notes, pink Cabernet Franc ice wine would be amazing alongside anything smothered in sliced peaches. Adventurous eaters could even add a splash of the wine to their plate as a decadent dipping sauce. It’s also delicious drizzled directly over fruit salad or ice cream, also acceptable dishes at the brunch table.


Wine With Dim Sum


Tea is the acknowledged staple of dim sum menus. But given the vibrancy of flavours found in dishes like dumplings (choose your filling), potstickers, rice noodle rolls and sticky rice balls – the list of possible dim sum offerings really is endless – Riesling is a snappy match, its bracing acidity and sweetness a good counter to the salty-garlicky taste of many dim sum dishes. As well, its vibrant fruit flavour (think green apple or apricot, the latter especially in late-harvest bottles) will enhance savoury dishes while also complementing custards and other sweets.