Wines for a summer picnic vary as much as the weather in which they will be shared. Even served out of plastic cups picnics are special with wine in them. Wine raises a simple packed lunch to a memorable event. Picnics are usually in the afternoon and are more about the social aspect than settling in with a stiff drink. The ideal picnic wine complements the discussion and keeps you as refreshed and cool as the food.
Consider the menu being offered when deciding on a wine. Most picnic foods are cold, lighter fare and easily transported. You might find antipasto, crudites, deviled eggs, salads, cold chicken, fruit, cheese and crackers carefully nestled among napkins, cutlery and a blanket. You don’t have to choose a pretentious or expensive wine; there are many wonderful, moderately priced selections that will be a focal point for the meal.
A crisp white such as a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Blanc is an excellent choice. They reflect the summer sun in a wine glass and smell delightful. They carry a little more acidic and citrus fruit flavors than some wines. Rieslings consistently maintain a balance between dry and fruity and do well chilled, or even over ice. They go very well with cold shrimp, cheeses and fruit.
Sharing a cold steak salad with a crusty artisan bread in the park while watching an outdoor concert might call for a rose. Since they are served chilled and are appropriate for a variety of menus, a light Rose makes a great summer picnic wine. They tend to be more fruity than dry and many nice labels come in at under $10 per bottle.
A picnic menu that features a hamburger, or cold pasta in red sauce might call for a red wine like a Beaujolais or Pinot Noir. You might look for a wine marked “red table wine” that is usually a blend of grapes, light and inexpensive.
Don’t discount a Sangria packed in a sealable pitcher for a picnic on the beach. Sangria is usually a mix of red wine, brandy and seasonal fruit. There is no recipe set in stone, so it can be styled to complement the food, weather and your personal preferences. You might want to add lemons and oranges for a light blend, or pineapple and mango for a tropical twist. It can be cut with sparkling water, served over ice, or even made with white wine. It goes equally well with a meatball sandwich as it does samosas and hummus.
A mimosa is a dry sparkling wine cocktail mixed with orange juice and can stretch a single bottle of wine while keeping it special. You can mix this cocktail on the spot, or ahead of time in a large thermos. Bring along a sprig of fresh mint with which to garnish the glasses Mimosas go particularly well with fresh fruit dipped in powdered sugar, cheeses and a herbed flatbread.
Dining alfresco at least once during the summer crowns the season and being prepared helps keep it relaxed. If your wines are corked, remember to pack an opener. There are handy freezer sleeves available that can be frozen ahead of time and slipped over the bottle to keep it cold for hours. An extra large ziploc bag filled with ice can also be packed around the bottle to help it stay cool and prevent spills. Bota bags are traditionally a leather wineskin and today have a plastic lining. They are still a great choice to pass around with friends.