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Enrich your breakfast with a zippy glass of wine
By John H. Isacs

I can think of many reasons to drink wine in the morning, but on top of my list is that certain styles of wine elegantly embellish our breakfast. This includes both classic Western morning dishes and the diverse breakfast treats of regional Chinese cuisines.

So while I’d never suggest drinking wine in the morning on a daily basis, it can be a wonderful way to make your breakfast more delicious and fun.


So what makes a wine suitable for our first meal of the day? As a general rule, morning wines should be fresh and zippy. This means it’s best to avoid overly powerful, oaky or tannic wines. Light, breezy and uplifting wine styles are the best way to start your day.

German and Italian immigrants first planted vines in Washington State during the 1860s. In the mid-20th century, with the support of Washington State University, the University of Washington and wine consultant Andre Tchelistcheff, the minuscule and underperforming winemaking industry started a new and more promising chapter. Forward thinking producers like Chateau Ste Michelle, Associated Vintners and others started focusing on premium wines and varieties more suitable for the challenging climate. Seasonal sever frosts and freezing temperatures made it necessary to use new techniques and cool climate varietals. The use of drip irrigation mitigated the negative influence of uneven rainfall. Today, Washington State is the seconded-largest producer of wines in the United States, right after California.

The two most important white wine grapes in Washington State, Chardonnay and Riesling, make particularly lovely breakfast wines. Good examples of these styles of wines offer expressive aromatics, bright fruit flavors and crisp acidity. These qualities help make the wines wonderful companions to Chinese morning treats like dim sum, deep-fried youtiao, egg pancakes and rice buns and cakes. Washington State whites also are good partners to popular Western breakfast egg dishes, sausages and bacon.

The sparklers and some styles of reds from Washington State also make fine breakfast wines. I suggest avoiding the heavier and more tannic Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon reds that usually spend more time in oak and gravitating toward lighter, fresher and more fruit forward Pinot Noir, Barbera and Gamay Noir wines.

Washington State has many exciting small producers but, unfortunately, few of their wines are available in China. Some recommended producers with wines in Shanghai include Chateau Ste Michelle, Columbia Crest, Milbrandt and Poets Leap.

In addition to Washington State sparklers, other New World classic method sparkling wines from Napa and Sonoma valleys in California, Victoria Australia and Mendoza Argentina all offer the friendly fruit and crispy qualities that liven up and distinguish popular breakfast foods while also facilitating digestion.

Some of the best producers of eye-opening morning sparklers from these regions are made by Domaine Carneros and Roederer Estate in Napa and Iron Horse in Sonoma.

For less costly bubbles, look for sparkling wines from De Bortoli in Victoria and Norton in Mendoza. All these wines make a mundane breakfast more appetizing and help put a smile on your face.

Most of the popular Chinese and Western breakfast dishes are easy to pair with wines. Coffee is a different matter. If you’re one of those people who can’t imagine starting your day without a cup of coffee, then your wine options are much more limited. Simply put, most wines and coffee are natural enemies.

One solution is to enjoy both beverages sequentially, first the wine, then the coffee.

However, if you insist on having a cup of mojo first, then your best bets are fortified wines or distilled spirits. Medium dry and cream style Sherries go well with many breakfast dishes. Some gourmets also enjoy their morning coffee with Italian grappa, Spanish Jerez brandy or French Cognac.

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