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The Best Wines for Your Next Picnic
April 16, 2019
With all these blue skies and sun-drenched afternoons, the weather calls for one thing—a little dining al fresco with your favorite folks. Yes, it's picnic season and no picnic is complete without a little vino to go hand in hand with the contents of your picnic basket. Stumped for what to choose? Fear not. We've rounded up a few sure-fire winners to go with your picnic feasts whether you're hitting the beach, your local park, or hitting the hiking trail.
Let's start with the obvious. Rosé aka everyone's favorite pink drink is an unbeatable all-rounder for picnics. It goes with cheese and cold cuts, both fruity and savory salads, chicken, and quiche. It's a fantastic pairing with most of the foods you can put in a sandwich. Tuna, ham, turkey, roast veggies, smoked salmon, a BLT...they're all magnificent with a perfectly chilled glass of rosé.
Now, there are several styles of rosé. They range from the palest pink to a flamboyant salmon. Rosés can be refined with a hint of berries and red summer fruits to upfront in their ripeness to herbal and almost savory. And yes, they can even be sweet (think of the white Zinfandels/Primitivo rosés of the world) and these sweet versions are the ideal pairing if you’ve packed chili-laden dishes. If you're not sure what's on the menu, opt for a dry rosé from Provence which has the perfect blend of fruit, brightness, and some of that herbal character. Stash these in your cooler until they hit about 50-55°F.
Add Some Sparkle to Your Picnic
You know what's ultra-refreshing when the mercury has crept up the thermometer? Sparkling wine and lots of it. Prosecco is always a winner if you want something that's both easy to drink and won't have you maxing out your credit cards. The budget-friendly bubbly is incredibly versatile with all sorts of foods, making it a real winner for a picnic.
If your tastes run more towards Champagne, Spanish Cava is another great budget buy but with more similarities to the classic French sparkling than the likes of Prosecco. There’s also phenomenal sparkling made stateside, with outstanding examples coming out of California’s Sonoma Valley and the Willamette Valley in Oregon.
Of course, if you want to go all out, no one would bear you any ill will if you did want to pick up some Champagne. Any of these bottles of bubbly are great with appetizers, light sandwiches, and even fried food. Trust us, if there's fried chicken in your picnic basket, be sure to pop a bottle of bubbles. Keep your bubbles chilled down to a cool 43-48°F.
White Wine for Any Occasion
For some, white wine is the epitome of a picnic wine and with good reason. There are seemingly endless options of stellar white wines you could stick in your cooler. A citrusy, vibrant Sancerre, a crisp, mineral-driven Chablis, a beautifully nuanced Chenin Blanc. Any of these wines would be fantastic with your favorite traditional picnic foods like crab rolls or shrimp salad.
You could also pick up a bottle of Riesling. Riesling is one of the most food-friendly wines out there. It's made in the full spectrum of bone dry to unctuously sweet, meaning that depending on what style you buy, you can pair your Riesling with anything from spicy carnitas to cold chicken or even a cold fruit salad. Bear in mind, thanks to its high acidity, Riesling is fantastic with rich fatty foods like cheese, avocado, and pâté. Germany is the classic region but there are some excellent Rieslings coming out of New York’s Finger Lakes.
There are a dozen or so fantastic Italian white wines you could bring along as well. With racy acidity and a crisp, citrus-driven profile, these wines are wonderfully refreshing, great with food, and frankly deserve a spot in your cooler. Look for Vermentino, Fiano, Verdicchio, or Soave Classico.
One final word of advice. Avoid heavily oaked styles. There's definitely a time and a place for these rich oaky wines, but a picnic isn't one of them. Serve your white wines around 44 to 50°F.
Chill Out with a Glass of Red
Depending on where you live it can get hot. As in “Who thought red wine would be a good idea?” hot. If you dig your red wine but want to keep cool, there are several grape varieties out there that are a) fantastic for picnic fare and b) can be chilled so you're not sipping on a heavy red in 95-degree weather. The key here is to opt for thin-skinned grape varieties and reach for fruitier styles from warmer climates. Think Pinot Noir, Grenache, and Tempranillo. For Pinot, look to California. Mendocino and Santa Barbara produce fantastic picnic-worthy Pinot Noir. Grenache lovers should turn to Spain (where the grape is called Garnacha), which is also where you'll find bright, fruity Tempranillo. In terms of Tempranillo, stick with crianza level wines. A Sicilian Frappato is also delicious served chilled. You won't want to serve these at the same temperature as your whites or sparklings. Chill your reds down to about 53-56°F.
So check your calendars, gather the troops, and pack your picnic basket. Just make sure there's enough wine on hand!
Written by Camille Berry for Knockaround.