Now that winter feels like a distant, chilly memory, there’s a vibrancy in the air and a willingness to head outside and explore nature that can’t be resisted. The sun’s shining, the grass is lush and green, and everyone’s heading out to top up their tans and enjoy some al fresco dining and drinking. That’s right - summer’s back again, and it’s time to start making the most of the hot weather while you have the chance!
There’s no shortage of things we love about this time of year. However, right at the top of the list is the fact that sunny days are perfect for cracking open a few bottles of chilled wine and sharing them with your friends. There’s something about fresh air and sunshine that gets us craving crisp white wines, light-bodied reds, and sparkling favorites - and nothing pairs better with these wine styles than light-hearted, comfortable, and easy-going picnic food.
Let’s take a look at some classic picnic wines for your drink cooler and the alfresco dining favorites they pair best with.
Picnics really call for wine that’s fun, refreshing, light, and bubbly. It’s impossible to take life too seriously when you have a beautiful glass of sparkling wine in your hand, plus there’s the added bonus of the fact that fizzy wine has a tendency to be incredibly food-friendly, letting you pair it with pretty much whatever you can stuff in your picnic basket. It’s all too tempting to reach for Champagne for your next picnic, but many people find the acidity and fizz of Champagne just a little too aggressive for relaxed dining - not to mention it can be incredibly expensive! The perfect alternative? For our money, that would be a good Cremant d’Alsace, Champagne’s affordable and delicious cousin, that allows you to enjoy a truly superb drinking experience at a fraction of the cost.
- Picnic Pairing: As with the majority of sparkling wines, Cremant d’Alsace pairs great with more or less everything. We really like it alongside creamy ripe cheeses like camembert, classic salads like a Waldorf, grilled seafood, and sausages.
As we all know, the sale of rosé wine absolutely skyrockets as soon as the mercury starts rising, and it isn’t difficult to see why: this blushing pink wine style is a perfect match for a sunny day, offering crispness and fruit flavors that are perfect in hot weather. No list of summer picnic wines would be complete without mention of rosé - and when it comes to these beautiful wines, few can compare to the original and best bottles from the Provence region of France.
The region of Provence in the South of France is best known for its endless lavender fields and beautiful vineyards, where Cinsault and Grenache grapes grow to a beautiful level of ripeness before being vinified into rosé wines, popular right across the globe. With their soft flavor profiles, zesty sharpness, and pale pink color, they’re by far the most sophisticated examples of this wine style, and a picnic must-have.
- Picnic Pairing: Provencal rosé matches very well with oily fish: sardines, mackerel pate, and anchovies, especially. However, it’s a highly versatile food-pairing wine, and pairs well with olives, hard cheeses, and Asian snacks like pakora and samosa.
What could be better on a hot summer’s day than a dry, crisp, and refreshing glass of your favorite white wine? There are plenty of fantastic wines that comfortably fit this description, and we’re particular fans of Gavi di Gavi, Vermentino, and Gruner Veltliner to name just a few. But the top of this list has to be Muscadet, a wine of unrivaled zestiness that always reminds us of sunny days.
For the best picnic Muscadet wines, we’d probably suggest looking to wineries around Nantes in France, where you’ll find the best bone-dry and mineral-rich versions of this grape varietal. The savory notes and aroma of freshly cut grass make this wine the perfect picnic option. A true summer classic and a reliable and food-friendly option that will definitely heighten any picnic!
- Picnic Pairing: Traditionally, French Muscadet is paired with fresh oysters. However, it’s perfectly understandable if you don’t want to shuck shellfish when you’re trying to relax in the grass. It’s also great with green salads, artichokes, spring onion, salade Nicoise, and soft creamy cheeses.
Romanian Pinot Noir
OK - we already admitted that, in general, red wines definitely take the back seat once summer rolls around. However, we couldn’t leave red wine off this list completely, as there are plenty of bottles out there that are perfect for sunny picnic lunches. The best red wine fitting this description? The food-friendly champion that is Pinot Noir.
Thanks to its light and refreshing body, dark fruit flavors, and gluggability, Pinot Noir is the ideal summer wine for anyone seeking a red vino that goes well with a massive array of foods and flavors. Pinot Noir nowadays is grown right across the world (and we recommend Romanian Pinot Noir for affordable easy-drinking bottles) but its true home remains in Burgundy, where arguably the best examples come from.
- Picnic pairing: Pinot Noir is incredibly versatile when it comes to food - just ask any sommelier! We especially love pairing it with picnic classics like a big pasta salad, chicken sandwiches, tuna, and salmon.
Albarino and Vinho Verde
If you’re lucky enough to be able to enjoy a picnic on a sandy beach, then there really is no wine quite as fitting as an Albarino, which is possibly our all-time favorite white wine varietal. Crisp, acidic, mineral-rich, and boasting a tempting touch of salinity (due to the fact that the vines grow best on the coast and benefit from sea breezes to temper the heat), Albarino is a real underrated treasure of a wine, which - thanks to the recent explosion of interest in Spanish whites and Portuguese wines - has become a rising star in recent years.
Most commonly, Albarino is enjoyed as a table wine, with regions such as Rias Baixas producing the most vibrant and popular bottles. However, there’s a very special place in our wine-loving hearts for Vinho Verde, the Portuguese slightly sparkling wine made with this white grape, which, in our humble opinions, is possibly the greatest sunny day-drinking wine there is. Low in alcohol, amazingly refreshing, and packing big citrus flavors that pair well with all your favorite picnic foods, it’s a must-have wine style you have to try.
- Picnic pairing: It goes without saying that this dry and saline wine is the perfect pairing for fish dishes. Boquerones - that’s Spanish anchovies to me and you - and sardines are especially good with this wine. However, it’s also perfect with olives, cold chicken, salt cod, fishcakes, crab, and potato salads.