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Prosecco, CAVA bubblies good with brunch
2013-11-07
By John H. Isacs

The beloved portmanteau brunch has a rather mysterious origin. The first documented use of the word was in 1895 in an article by Guy Beringer for the long defunct Hunter’s Weekly publication.

In his article, Beringer extolled the virtues of a late-morning or early-afternoon meal on the holidays that’s “cheerful, sociable, inciting and sweeps away the cobwebs of the week.”

The culinary tradition of a late-morning to early-afternoon meal on non-work days certainly precedes the Hunter’s Weekly article, but exactly how it originated remains a mystery.

Some posit that brunch evolved from the English hunt breakfasts while others postulate that it was a logical result of Catholics fasting before Mass.

All we really know is that it started in England in the 19th century and became a cultural and commercial phenomenon in the US in the late 20th century. In our new century, the art of doing brunch has also become quite popular in Shanghai.

Like all meals, brunch is meant to be embellished by good wines. A brunch wine should be reasonably priced, food friendly and light and refreshing. Here are my picks for the perfect brunch wines.

All things bubbles

When we think bubbles in China, most people think Champagne. But who really wants to spend that kind of money at brunch? Thankfully there are some delicious alternatives in Prosecco and CAVA sparkling wines.

Both are eminently affordable and pair well with the diverse foods favored at brunch. Significantly, they also work well with popular brunch egg dishes like eggs Benedict and quiche Lorraine. About the only food Prosecco and CAVA don’t pair well with are large slabs of red meat, which are hardly brunch staples.

Prosecco wines originate from Veneto in northern Italy and are made from the Glera variety. Unlike Champagne, Prosecco wines gain their bubbles from the Charmat method in which the second fermentation is done in pressurized stainless steel tanks.

This process is quicker and less costly than the Champagne method of a second fermentation in the bottle. It also results in wines that are lighter and fresher; in other words, just perfect for brunch.

When choosing a Prosecco look for the words Canegliano and Valdobbiandene on the label. These are the two premium sub-regions of Prosecco DOC. Also be careful to pick top producers like Bisol, Carpene Malvolti, Vitocelli and Botega.

If Prosecco isn’t the ideal wine for brunch, then the crown must go to CAVA. Since 1872 when Codorniu made the first real CAVA sparkling wine in the then-sleepy town of Sant Sandurni d’Anoia in northeastern Spain, this style of wine has become the world’s most popular traditional or Champagne method sparkling wine.

CAVA wines can be legally made in many Spanish wine regions but the great majority originate from Catalonia. The traditional grapes used to make CAVA are the Spanish varieties Macabeu, Xarel-lo and Parellada. Since 1981, the French varieties Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as well as the popular Mediterranean grape Malvasia may also be used in the blend.

Like Prosecco, CAVA wines tend to be lighter and fresher than Champagne. Their friendly, fruity natures make them ideal partners with many brunch favorites ranging from baked goodies to bacon, sausage and smoked salmon. The clean acidity in both wines works wonders to cleanse the palate and facilitate digestion.

For something even more fruity, use Prosecco and CAVA wines to make sparkling cocktails like mimosas, bellinis and kir royales.

Sweet and easy

The best examples of Prosecco and CAVA wines are dry, and while dry wines work splendidly with brunch, so do some fun, sweet sparklers. In the wine world nothing so perfectly is fun as a good glass of Moscato d’Asti. Better yet, they are also among the best values in the wine world.

Made in and around the town of Asti in the northern Italian region of Piedmont, Moscato d’Asti wines are inexplicably some of the most overlooked wines in the world.

These lightly sweet and gently effervescent wines are made from the ancient Moscato Bianco variety and often express lovely aromas and fresh flavors of tropical fruits, nectarines, blossoms and honey.

Moscato d’Asti wines are only slightly fizzy and usually have about 5.5 to 6.5 percent alcohol. The charming sweetness in these wines is never cloying and is balanced by lively acidity.

All these qualities make them loving companions to many brunch favorites. They are especially good with freshly baked breads, muffins and fresh fruit but also go very nicely with eggs, seafood and salads.

As with Prosecco and CAVA wines, when choosing a Moscato d’Asti be sure to pick quality producers. Some of the best are Michel Chiarlo, La Spinetta, Prunotto and Bera. All three styles of wine are also best young so stick to recent vintages.

Serving hints

Whether your next brunch includes Prosecco, CAVA or Moscato d’Asti, be sure to serve them properly. The dry sparklers taste best at about 7-8 Celsius while Moscato d’Asti should be a couple of degrees cooler.

While it’s fashionable to use flute-shaped glasses, I think these wines express themselves best in a Sauvignon Blanc-style glass that comes with a larger bowl.

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