Brunch Table

This past weekend, my wife and I decided to host a friend who was visiting from out of town for brunch. Heading out to brunch can be a fun experience, but more often than not I find eating brunch out to be a real pain. There always seems to be a wait, even if you have a reservation, and then by the time you’re finally seated and order, you realize you’re eating an egg dish you probably could make just as well or better at home. That’s why when friends want to get together for brunch, I almost always offer to host instead.

Everyone has their favorite brunch dishes, from slow cooked eggs to pancakes to French toast to lox and bagels, there are endless possibilities. You can attend a different brunch every weekend and still encounter a unique take on the meal. But there is one item that is consistently at almost every brunch, and that item is the mimosa.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the mimosa. It was one of the first “grown up” drinks my parents ever let me try as a child, and it is fun to think you’re getting both your daily dose of vitamin C and your booze intake in the same glass.

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While the mimosa is one of the easiest wine-based cocktails to make, it is also one of the easiest drinks to make taste awful, simply by using really cheap sparkling wine. André I am looking at you…

When you make a mimosa, the sparkling wine should complement the orange juice, not overpower it with its boozy taste. Using bargain-bin sparkling is one of the quickest ways to ensure your guests go from sipping delicious champagne mixed with fresh OJ to drinking a harsh rubbing alcohol-flavored orange drink that has a slight hint of tang flavor and is sure to deliver a dreadful headache followed by a hangover in the coming hours.

In addition to wanting to choose a quality sparkling wine so it will mix well with the OJ, I also do so in case my guests would rather sip the sparkling wine on its own. Whenever I make a wine-based cocktail I always adhere to the same rule I use for cooking: if I’d enjoy drinking the wine on its own, I will use it in a cocktail. Mixing the wine with OJ is not an excuse to go with cheap wine that you would never drink on its own. Since I never enjoy drinking André, I can easily rule it out.

On Sunday morning, I quickly prepped everything in the kitchen and then headed to my local wine shop to grab the bottle of bubbly. When searching for a sparkling wine for mimosas you don’t need to buy Veuve Clicqout — my advice to buy quality bubbly is not that extreme. Instead I’ve found you can do very well buying a bottle in the $15 to $20 range, especially if you seek out bubbly made in countries such a Spain, Italy and even South Africa.

Sparkling SteenI had a quick chat with the shop’s owner and was pointed in the direction of a bottle of Robert Christopher Sparkling Steen from South Africa. At first I had no idea what Steen was — I love how South Africans and Aussies love to change the names of grapes to confuse us — but I was told by the owner that Steen is simply what South African winemakers call the Chenin Blanc grape. Mystery solved.

When I arrived home I decided to go ahead and open the bottle so I could taste the wine. Since I had never had it before, I wanted to make sure I liked it before encouraging our guests to drink it alone as well as mix it with the OJ. The wine was in a beautiful clear bottle with a really modern and striking label. If it was as good as the packaging, I realized I had found a new go-to bubbly.

I took a sip — it was clean, light and crisp. The bubbles were very fine and effervescent and the wine was nice and dry. It was such a refreshing glass that I thought I’d probably wind up just drinking the wine alone instead of mixing it with the OJ. I was simply enjoying it too much.

When our guests arrived a few minutes later, we all sat down around the table and I pulled out the wine, ready to get the brunch started. I quickly explained what Steen was, having just learned myself a few hours earlier — which is another lesson: no one can possibly know everything about wine, so never be afraid to ask questions — and then made the mimosas. The sparkling wine combined with the orange juice was absolutely delicious. I am a big fan of OJ and wine on their own, but somehow the combination makes both taste even better. It was the perfect mimosa, and I had discovered a great new sparkling wine.