It’s time to dig out the picnic blanket and dust off the hamper. Al fresco dining is back on the agenda and with the current financial pinch, what better way to still be able to enjoy eating out but on a budget!
Whether it’s cold cuts and cheeses, salads or quiches, there are plenty of lighter, fruit-driven wines that are versatile enough to match a broad spectrum of flavours and yet will still set you back less money than most pub or restaurant house wines.
Picnic Wine #1: White & Sea Colombard Sauvignon Blanc
If you enjoy refreshingly zingy white wines, the sort of wine that makes your taste buds tingle once you’ve swallowed it, then the White & Sea Colombard Sauvignon Blanc blend from the Gascony region of France should float your boat.
Colombard is one of the key varieties grown in the nearby Cognac region for distillation, due to its naturally high acidity. In Gascony, especially when the vines are older, as with this wine, the acidity is balanced with more fruit texture and reveals a distinctive guava-like flavour. Add 30% Sauvignon Blanc and you have a citrus-cum-green apple element that makes this perfect with fish (as aptly suggested by the label), seafood or a chicken Caesar salad.
Picnic Wine #2: Funkstille Grüner Veltliner
How about a slightly more exotic profile with your zing? We’re talking yellow-fleshed fruits like mango and nectarine with the prickle of Sicilian lemon and grapefruit. Funkstille Grüner Veltliner from northern Austria reveals this trendy grape’s alter ego from the green, herbaceous style for which Austria is perhaps better known. If you like unoaked white burgundy from Mâcon or cool-climate Pinot Blanc, you’re going to love this.
Grilled fish, cold turkey or Asian chargrilled chicken noodle salad all pair brilliantly with this complex but zippy wine. It’ll even work with coronation chicken or focaccia stuffed with mozzarella and antipasti. Don’t be afraid to get creative!
Picnic Wine #3: La Vie En Rose
No summer would be complete without a rosé, the ideal compromise if you want a wine that feels like a red wine in the mouth but with the freshness of a white wine. If you like the Provençal style but at a sensible price, look no further than the La Vie En Rose from the Languedoc-Roussillon. Based predominantly on Cinsault with a little Grenache and Syrah, this is literally bursting with cherry, raspberry and pomegranate with lovely balancing freshness and a crisp but ripe fruited finish.
Charcuterie, salmon mousse or potted shrimps all work exquisitely as will sausage rolls or vegan sausage rolls. Or how about a turkey, strawberry and avocado salad or a classic Niçoise.
Picnic Wine #4: Mont Rocher Vieilles Vignes Carignan
There are plenty of light red wine options that can also be chilled down, if preferred, especially on a hot day. Essentially you need a wine with low to no discernible tannins, as these become more pronounced the cooler the wine is. The Mont Rocher Vieilles Vignes Carignan from the Languedoc is a prime example of a juicy red with light tannins and can certainly be drunk at a cooler temperature.
Carignan is often overlooked and is a variety that’s widely used in blends throughout the south of France. It adds a vibrant ruby red colour and lovely bramble fruit flavours with a touch of star anise. Vieilles Vignes means ‘Old Vines’ which in turn means more concentration of flavour. This wine excels with charcuterie, pork pie and wild mushroom quiche as well as medium-strength cheeses.
Picnic Wine #5: Santa Macarena ‘Single Vineyard’ Pinot Noir
Our final option has to be a Pinot Noir, a classic cool-climate varietal that is just as delicious chilled as it is served at ambient temperature. For outstanding value, head to Chile and the Santa Macarena ‘Single Vineyard’ Pinot Noir from the coastal San Antonio sub-region. From a site that lies just 5km from the Pacific coast, you really get a sense of the coolness in this wine.
Balancing delicious red fruits with earthy, spicy notes from a short period of ageing in contact with oak. Bright and aromatic, this easy-drinking red pairs perfectly with duck wraps, crispy chicken and avocado baps or how about Thai salmon filo parcels à la Delia Smith.
So there we have it. Five perfect picnic wines and hopefully plenty of culinary ideas to cater for all tastes and abilities. Now all we need is the weather to be kind!