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Why we should drink wine at breakfast

Wine at breakfast is totally acceptable in France, Italy and Spain - so why not in the UK? 

Kashmira Gander
Wednesday 06 September 2017 15:29 BST

For millions of people, the rich aroma of ground coffee beans blended with hot water and frothy milk is what mornings smell like, while the fruity notes of a glass of wine are a welcome sign of evenings. But what would happen if we ditched the paper cup of arabica for a glug of merlot at 8am?

It might sound outrageous - dangerous, even. But maybe being able to enjoy a snifter of wine at breakfast, alongside a plate of poached eggs and toast as you catch up on the morning news, is the marker of being a “proper adult”. Just imagine being someone who can drink responsibly, even in the morning, and say with certainty: “yes, I can have just one glass of wine with my breakfast. I can have some alcohol without needing to do shots and shout-sing with my arms around my friends”.

And it’s not without precedent. Our arguably more cultured cousins on continental Europe (when it comes to drinking, anyway) are no strangers to having a white wine or a light red with their morning panini, explains Andrea Briccarello, the group sommelier and wine buyer at Galvin Restaurants in London and Edinburgh. This culture evolved from the 16th century when beer was cleaner than water and it wasn’t unusual for workers to start off their day with a tipple. So, considering that we’ve fully adopted European coffee culture, maybe it’s time to re-think how we drink wine, too.

“Wine in Europe - particularly in Spain, France and Italy - alongside food, is a very important part of life,” says Rob Edwards, managing director of The Vino Beano wine merchant. “I don’t think people in those countries drink wine, or any alcohol for that matter, to get drunk. Wine with a meal is about more than that. It’s the coming together of friends and family, and enjoying the time together. Wine merely compliments that,”

Sure, nothing will beat the caffeine kick of an espresso as we struggle to keep our eyes open at our desks. But when it comes to dining in the morning, wine is also better matched with food as the flavours are more delicate says Brett Wootton, the co-founder of the Vinoteca wine bar near King’s Cross in central London which serves a selection of breakfast wines.

“We’ve been drinking alcoholic beverages for ages in this country in the shape of Bloody Marys, Mimosas and Bellinis,” he adds. “Wine for breakfast is a more sophisticated move from cocktails.” In moderation, a glass of red also has the added health benefits of managing cholesterol and protecting the heart, according to research.

Wine on a weekend is already becoming more palatable outside of wedding breakfasts, as bottomless brunches accompanied with glass after glass of prosecco have become hugely popular.

So, what should breakfast wine beginners order?

“I would suggest the first wine of the day should be fresh, light and dry,” says Robin Copestick of distributor Copestick Murray. “Prosecco and sparkling wines are high in acidity which allow you to cleanse your palate after indulging in rich foods such as a cooked breakfast.

“I would definitely suggest something like a Lambrusco di Sorbara, light and zingy or a German Riesling from the Mosel, which has usually a hint of residual sugar and a very low ABV,” says Briccarello. “Light reds like Gamay are excellent with savoury snacks and a chilled light red like a Bardolino will be the perfect wine for any beginners.”

For Woonton, the perfect breakfast wine is the 2016 Moscato from Innocent Bystander. "It’s like a pink Berocca: light with a cherry fizz and only five per cent alcohol - perfect after the night before,” says Woonton.

For those feeling a little more adventurous, he suggests the 2015 Bonarda Frizzante ‘Sommossa’, Castello di Luzzano which is 12 per cent ABV. “It’s a naturally fizzy red made from Bonarda. Deep, dark, dry, bubbling over with dark berries. It's the perfect to cut a full English.”

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