“Brunch is for jerks,” the internet tells us. It’s a scam, it’s divisive, it’s for assholes. Sure.
Let’s talk about breakfast then. Breakfast, whether on weekdays or weekends, is lovely. It’s romantic, even. If you choose to eat dinner with someone, you’re spending the last meal of the day together. If you choose to eat breakfast with someone, you’re setting the tone of the day together.
While skipping dinner might mean you’re sick or depressed, skipping breakfast is shorthand for “I am a busy person living in the 21st century,” meaning it’s all the more luxurious to schedule it into your day. You’re not choking down a protein shake in the name of health or mindlessly munching on a pastry, you’re sitting down for a nourishing, beautiful experience that you didn’t strictly need to have.
The meal could be eggs and toast, it could be a fruit salad, it could be waffles. It doesn’t matter; you chose to be there, and therefore, it is special. You chose not to sleep in, not to spend the night before in debauchery (or at least wrapped up the debauchery at a reasonable hour), not to start your day with a quick “SO sorry, I think I woke up with the flu. Can we reschedule?” text and then pull the covers back over your head.
Maybe you arrived fifteen minutes late because you “got stuck in traffic” or “The A train didn’t come” but hey, you’re there. Maybe you’re at a restaurant, maybe you’re at someone’s house, maybe you’re the one who is hosting and have been frantically preparing for the past hour. Welcome to the most wonderful meal of the day.
What if we treated breakfast like the celebration of living well that it is and popped a bottle of Champagne over the more traditional—and more headache-inducing—mimosas?
“If you’re at a party or friend’s apartment and they have shitty sparkling wine, then yeah, add orange juice,” says Tira Johnson, sommelier at Terroir in New York City. “But, Champagne is always champion.”
“The bubbles awaken the taste buds,” says Vanessa Conlin, Head of Wine at Wine Access, “And let’s face it, it is just plain romantic to pop a Champagne cork – what could be a better way to start the day?”
With the average bottomless brunch running anywhere from $20-30 per person just for drinks, it’s not much more expensive to pool your resources and split a nice bottle. In fact, it may be even cheaper. Grower Champagne, made by the estates that grew the grapes, is trendier, more distinctive, and can start at around $35 for a bottle to take home, if you know where to look.
Mimosas at a restaurant, as any former bartender knows, are basically orange juice with a kiss of not-so-wonderful sparkling wine. They may be low in alcohol, but thanks to the sugar and the quality of the ingredients, you’ll almost certainly end up with a hangover if you drink more than one. Champagne, on the other hand, is “never super high ABV—usually around 12%,” says Johnson, “which is another reason why it’s the perfect morning beverage.”
Plus, there’s always the pleasure of opening something special simply for the joy of it, especially when it’s something as iconic as Champagne. “More than any other wine, Champagne unlocks wine’s archetypal promise: joy,” says Karen MacNeil in The Wine Bible.
When we talk about Champagne, by the way, we’re talking about the real-deal stuff from France. Much like calling any tissue “Kleenex,” people like to call any sparkling wine “Champagne” and that’s not quite fair. “This is the region that no other region can mimic,” says Johnson.
“For me, a great Champagne possesses the contrapuntal tension of opposites—like a sword enveloped in whipped cream,” says MacNeil later in The Wine Bible. “The sword is the Champagne’s dramatic acidity. The whipped cream is the hedonic texture that comes from the sur lie aging.”
That acidity, or “bolt of energy,” as Alexis Schwartz, Founder of ThirstyThirsty explains, “is more effective than espresso, and is a not-so-subtle reminder that you’ve already won the day— spiritually and emotionally.” That sur lie aging, or keeping the wine in contact with the dead yeast cells, adds richness and complexity.
Thanks to its acidity, texture, and effervescence, Champagne pairs with just about everything. And, once you have a sense of the styles, you can get even more specific with your pairings.
“Blanc de blanc (all Chardonnay) is my favorite,” says Conlin, “I love the linear, clean and focused style, so think more elegant dishes.” She recommends an omelette with smoked salmon, garnished with caviar, crème fraiche, and chives. If you don’t feel like cooking, put out bagels, cream cheese, smoked salmon, or even a smoked salmon pâté.
For something heartier like eggs benedict, Conlin recommends Blanc de Noir, the fuller, more structured Champagne made with the red grape varieties Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier. For rosé Champagne, which Conlin considers “the most intriguing and just plain prettiest,” she suggests a frittata with prosciutto and potatoes. For non-vintage Brut styles, usually the most entry-level bottles, it’s more of a “no-brainer,” she says—pair with something savory.
In the mood for a sweeter breakfast? No problem—look for Demi-Sec Champagne. With a bit more residual sugar in your Champagne, it will pair beautifully with more decadent, desserty breakfasts.
Can Champagne be a splurge? Absolutely. But breakfast can too. If you’re going out of your way to start your day decadently in the first place, you may as well commit. You are setting the tone for your day, after all.
A few extra special bottles within the “we pooled our bottomless mimosa money to split a bottle” budget:
Jacques Lassaigne ‘Les Vignes de Montgueux’ Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut
Tasting notes: Vibrant and pure. Green apple, white peach, freshly-baked brioche.
Dhondt-Grellet ‘Dans un Premier Temps’ Brut
Tasting notes: Satiny and snappy. Lemon oil, almond blossom, a bit smoky.
Andre Beaufort a Polisy Brut
Tasting notes: Exuberent, mineral-driven. Toasted hazelnuts, bosc pear, and meyer lemon zest.
Michel Gonet Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru
Tasting notes: Made from grand cru vineyards in Oger and Mesnil sur Oger, this is a rich, soft wine, with light toasty aromas and flavors of green plums, vanilla, nuts and honey. A mineral element provides crispness to the finish
Tasting notes: Champagne Gonet was founded in 1802 and since then, six generations of family members have ensured that the House has grown and prospered. Green plums, vanilla, and honey, with a mineral finish.
Champagne Christian Busin
Tasting notes: Baked apple on the nose, fresh and toasty.
Christine Clark is a professional cheese and beverage nerd. Her work has appeared in VinePair, Fine Cooking, Travel + Leisure, and AFAR, and she has been featured in Bon Appetit, Complex, Epicurious, and the Huffington Post. She is a Certified Cheese Professional by the American Cheese Society. In her spare time, she plays with her dog and plans her next meal. Follow her latest eating adventures on Instagram @yourcheesefriend.