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A Brief History of Brunch — With the Best Wines to Pair

Next time skip the mimosas and uncork these bottles instead

Janice Williams By May 12, 2022
avocado toast with wine bottles around it
Illustration by Pix. Photo by Daria Shevtsova/Pexels.

Every weekend from late mornings onward, restaurants fill with hungry people settling in for a feast. Even at-home chefs break out their pots, pans, and best silver for elaborate meals of eggs Benedict, sweet pastries, omelets, bagels, and everything in between. What’s the occasion? Brunch, of course.

While the food takes center stage, the drink is important, too. According to the Washington Post, it was brunch that launched popular cocktails like the Bloody Mary and the Mimosa in the 1920s. 

A little history

The first mentions of brunch culture date back to 1895 when British writer Guy Beringer made a case for enjoying a late breakfast in the piece “Brunch: A Plea” in Hunter’s Weekly. 

“By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday-night carousers. It would promote human happiness in other ways as well. Brunch is cheerful, sociable, and inciting. It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week,” Beringer wrote. 

A year after Beringer’s essay, the idea of brunch popped up in the U.S. in a column in the New Oxford, an old Pennsylvania newspaper. However, the concept didn’t truly take off in America until after World War II, when people began to sleep in on Sundays rather than attend early morning church service, author Evan Jones noted in his book “American Food: The Gastronomic Story.” 

Brunch became so fashionable with high society that the New York Times declared Sunday a two-meal day in 1939. 

The 1960s brought the first brunch recipes listed in celebrity chef cookbooks. And by the 1990s, Americans had turned brunch into a weekend-long event, dining out for midday meals on Saturdays too.

With the rise of brunch came the increase in daytime drinking and a new wave of less alcoholic cocktails that used ingredients found at the breakfast table, as in the orange juice used in the Mimosa.  

Brunch today

As people’s preferences for brunch have grown over the years, so has the interest in various brunch cocktails. 

Nowadays, people aren’t just sticking to Mimosas or Bloody Mary’s — they’re ordering spritzers too, or choosing to enjoy their sparkling wine without the mixers and glasses of still red, white, and rosé wines that are often featured on menus.

Bottles to try:

bottle of Lini 910 Emilia-Romagna Lambrusco Bianco NV

Lini 910 Emilia-Romagna Lambrusco Bianco NV (~$16)

Lini 910 has been a family-owned and operated sustainable winery in Emilia-Romagna, Italy, since 1910. For this particular bottle, native Italian Lambrusco Salamino grapes undergo a second fermentation in a steel tank — known as the Charmat method — to produce a light, fruit-forward, and food-friendly sparkling wine displaying candied pear and lemon flavors.

bottle of Chateau de Campuget de Nimes 1753 Rhone Syrah-Vermentino Rosé

Château de Campuget de Nîmes 1753 Rhône Syrah-Vermentino Rosé 2021 (~$16)

Produced by Château de Campuget in the Rhône Valley of France, this wine is made with a blend of Syrah and Vermentino. The nose is intense with grapefruit lifted by herby, peppery aromas. Bright blackberry nuances are prevalent on the palate, while a wave of minerality and fresh acidity tie all the flavors together with a perfect bow.

bottle of Sommariva Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiane Superiore Brut NV

Sommariva Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore Brut NV (~$17)

What’s brunch without Prosecco? Made by the Sommariva family in the high plains of the Veneto in Italy, this sparkling wine dazzles with fresh floral aromas and nuances of yellow pear and peach. Consistent bubbles provide an energetic finish full of finesse. Pair it with all the brunch delights or enjoy as an aperitif to the mid-day meal.

bottle of Chateau Ste Michelle Eroica Riesling 2020

Chateau Ste Michelle Columbia Valley Eroica Riesling 2020 (~$18)

This food-friendly white wine is light, easy-drinking, and full of stone fruit fragrances and flavors. Hints of citrus aren’t to be missed in the finish. Chateau Ste. Michelle, one of Washington State’s oldest and most renowned wineries, makes this Riesling with grapes grown in the Columbia Valley.

bottle of La Spinetta Il Rose di Casanova Tuscany

La Spinetta Il Rosé di Casanova Tuscany 2021 (~$19)

This blush-colored rosé is made with Sangiovese grapes grown in Tuscany and is made by La Spinetta, an Italian winery that has existed in Castagnole Lanze since 1977. The rosé is light-bodied and has crisp acidity. Floral notes lead the aroma while red berry and citrus flavors saturate the palate. The finish is long and soft and wraps up with clean minerality.

bottle of Weinbau Erich Sattler Reserve Burgenland Zweigelt

Erich Sattler Reserve Burgenland Zweigelt (~$19)

Red wine for brunch? When it’s as delectable and easy-drinking as Erich Sattler’s Zweigelt from the Burgenland wine region of Austria, then, yes, red wine for brunch is totally acceptable. This wine is bursting with ripe red fruit character with aromas of strawberries and herbs on the nose and a palate full of plum flavors, dusted with pepper. Drink it up with your hearty brunch dishes. 

bottle of Argyle Willamette Valley Brut NV

Argyle Winery Willamette Valley Brut NV (~$25)

Argyle Winery was founded in Oregon’s Willamette Valley in 1987 and has since become an Oregon icon, known for producing sparkling wines, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, and rosé. This particular bubbly — made with a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Meunier — is a critical favorite, receiving high scores from reviewers at Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast, thanks to its complex flavors and aromas, depth, and graceful finish.

bottle of Dr. Loosen Mosel Riesling Sekt Extra Dry NV

Dr. Loosen Mosel Riesling Sekt Extra Dry NV (~$27)

Dr. Loosen produces this Sekt — the German word for sparkling wine — in the heart of the Mosel, using estate-grown Riesling grapes. The wine is bright and lively with crisp stone fruit nuances, tingling acidity, and sturdy bubbles that evolve elegantly on the finish.

bottle of Antica Fratta Franciacorta Brut DOCG

Antica Fratta Franciacorta DOCG Brut NV (~$30)

No orange juice is necessary when drinking Antica Fratta’s sparkling blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Nero. Produced in Italy’s Franciacorta — a region famous for bubbly made in the traditional method similar to Champagne — this dry wine is rich and intense with nutty and floral aromas, while the palate shines with citrus and tropical fruit notes complemented by toasty flavors. 

bottle of Graham Beck South Africa Blanc de Blancs

Graham Beck South Africa Blanc de Blancs NV (~$31)

Rich, creamy, and elegant are the words to describe this bubbly produced by one of South Africa’s most famous sparkling wine estates, Graham Beck. Made entirely with Chardonnay grapes that grow in the Robertson wine region, this wine displays aromas of citrus and orchard fruits. The palate is decadent with frothy bubbles and yeasty complexities that extend throughout the acid-rich, smooth, and long finish.

bottle of Catherine et Pierre Breton Vouvray La Dilettante NV

Catherine et Pierre Breton La Dilettante Vouvray NV (~$31)

Catherine Breton practices biodynamic farming to grow the Chenin Blanc grapes used for this bone-dry sparkling wine. Hailing from the Loire, this wine is rich with honeyed flavors, mouthwatering acidity, and stony minerality. The sparkling wine is food-friendly and can pair with everything from the most decadent to the lightest of brunch dishes.

bottle of Leah Jorgensen Cellars Loiregon 'Tour Rain' Oregon Red Blend

Leah Jorgensen Cellars 'Tour Rain' Oregon Red Blend 2019 (~$34)

You’ll need a wine with some power to soak up that plate of steak and eggs, and this blend of Cabernet Franc and Gamay from Leah Jorgensen Cellars has it. It is a medium-bodied wine balanced with red flowers and fruit aromas and a hint of pepper. Rich, soft tannins influence the wine’s structure, but it is not overwhelmingly dry on the palate. Bright acidity and plenty of cherry fruit help the wine maintain its juicy character. Enjoy it slightly chilled for optimal drinking.