Julie Dupouy shares her pick of perfect picnic wines
The resurgence of the picnic over the past two years has been a welcome and novel way to get back to sharing convivial moments with friends or family. Like any special occasion, the excitement starts at the planning stage. From the preparation of the meal itself, to its presentation, the modern picnic lunch can be taken in many different directions.
Studies have shown that “earthing”, being in contact with the earth, allows the release of built-up negative electric charges from our body and can reduce inflammation as well as many other health benefits. Much like the rejuvenation we get from a swim in the sea, an afternoon spent with our feet on the grass can feel like quite the soul nourishing treat.
In the past, simple ham and cheese sandwiches or tuna salad were the norm but nowadays people are more ambitious with their picnic menus. There are many tasty and creative ways to smarten up a picnic – mixed salads, various dips and condiments, cold meats, high quality tinned seafood, quiches, hummus. The list goes on. The internet is rich in simple and delicious recipes to inspire anyone prepping for a day dining out.
There is no shortage of great wines on the market to complement those summery treats. Pink, sparkling and still wines are an obvious first choice. Typically associated with the al fresco dining model of the Mediterranean, rosé wines are now produced all over the world and range from light and crisp to deeply coloured and structured. Rosé wines offer great versality when it comes to pairing a wine with the picnic smorgasbord. Their fresh and delicately perfumed nature suits lighter ingredients such as fish, salads and vegetables while most rosés will also have enough structure to complement cold or cured meats. If however, you generally prefer wines with more structure, look out for names such as Tavel, a rosé wine produced near Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the wines of Spain’s Navarra region or the Clairet styles from Bordeaux.
Light, crisp and fruity styles are what I would suggest for white drinkers. Wines based on classic grape varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño, Pinot Blanc, Piquepoul are all good options. However, a day out is the perfect occasion to wander away off the beaten path and try something new which brings a little of that sense of discovery we enjoy so much on holidays. Grapes such as Aligoté, Colombard, Gros Manseng, Vermentino, Muscat, Xarel-lo and Malagousia all have tons of vibrancy and personality.
The Italian shelf in your local wine shop will also almost certainly hold plenty of picnic-friendly little gems, made from the dozens of indigenous Italian grape varieties. Ask your local wine shops for advice, they will be delighted to suggest particular options for you.
Light, fruit-forward, juicy and relatively low-tannin reds are the way to go when it comes to pairing wine with summer cuisine. Look out for wines made from Pinot Noir, Gamay, Barbera or Garnacha if you wish to remain in the classic camp. However if you feel a little more adventurous, there are some really exciting options produced from lesser-known grape varieties such as Rossese, Cinsault, Négrette, Ciliegiolo, País and more. Don’t be afraid to cool down your red wines. If you were to travel to Spain, France or Portugal in the summer months, this is how they would typically be served to you.
Finally, when you are out and about, practical thinking is key. The last thing you want is to forget your bottle opener! Select wines that are easy to open and reseal. There are numerous packaging options available, from screwcap closures to wines in cans or the trusty old bag in box. The quality available here is improving all the time and many are worthy of good recommendations. Glassware is also an important aspect of enjoying a nice glass of wine and drinking out of a plastic cup never really does justice to a quality wine. There are some really lovely picnic basket sets available and they usually include a set of simple and sturdy wine glasses which can be stored carefully without risk of breaking. Otherwise, Riedel offers stemless wine glasses which are a good sensible option to bring to a picnic. They will give you the best possible tasting experience while limiting the risk of breakages or spillage.
Temperature is so important in giving a nice wine a chance to show itself in a good light. A little forward planning is all that’s needed. Chill your bottle properly before going out and transport it in a simple cooler bag. A frozen water bottle makes a great ice pack to keep your fare well chilled too. Now that we are all set for the perfect picnic, all we need is a little generosity from mother nature.
Safra, Celler del Roure, 2020, Valencia, Spain, €22; www.baggotstreetwines.com.
Vin de Savoie Arbin, Terre d’origine, Domaine Trosset, Savoie, France, €26; www.siyps.com.
Grignolino, Sette, Piemonte, Italy, €27.50; www.blackrockcellar.com.
Dao Valley, Minho Moutinho, Touriga Nacional, Portugal, €7.99; www.aldi.ie.
Questo e il Vino Bianco del 2021, Sette, Piemonte, Italy, €23.50; www.greenmanwines.ie.
Vinho Verde, Loureiro Alvarinho, Azevedo, Portugal, €16.99; www.clontarfwines.ie.