That wonderful excuse for eating outdoors - the picnic is back. Just in time to enjoy family outings, romantic get-togethers, friends catch-ups or or perhaps a solitary me-time breakaway from the four walls that have consumed most of us during lockdown.
We can probably thank the pandemic for the popularity of the picnic and the powers-that-be for allowing us to meet outdoors as part of easing restrictions. The weather is improving and with luck we will soon be outside enjoying what is left of 2021.
Picnics have taken on a life of their own and are no longer just a sandwich or muffin in the park. They really have become a feast where the gathering of fine foods and good wine to savour has gone up a notch.
Which means the wine that accompanies the picnic has to be just right so as not to spoil all the delicious morsels you have packed.
There are a few simple rules to follow when it comes to choosing the wine and enjoying it, when you are picnicking outdoors.
Firstly, make sure you are permitted to consume alcohol in the park or place you have chosen for your outing. Look for the signs that stipulate this rule or a quick Google brings up any restrictions that may be in place. If you are not allowed to drink alcohol at the time you want to picnic in that spot - choose another venue.
Remember to pack glasses. A decent glass will make it all the more worthwhile. If you want to take stemmed glassware then make sure it's a thicker glass that can withstand being bumped around in the picnic hamper or being sat on by the dog who is coming along. Wrap your glasses in a tea towel for added protection.
I always pack those wonderful wine sticks that you can buy from any bottle shop or online. They are sturdy and fairly light-weight to carry. You simply pierce them into the ground and they balance your bottle and wine glasses upright so they don't get tipped over. There are some great styles available and they are reasonably inexpensive.
Another great idea is from ex-Canberran, Rachel Antrobus who has designed folding picnic tables that are portable and fabulous for wine, wine bottles and whatever nibbles you have on hand. Australian-made, and available in two sizes, to hold two or four glasses, the tables are lightweight, stable, and perfect for a picnic. Get them at Outdoors Hello
Tumblers are useful at picnics, but can get easily broken unless you are sitting at a table. They also tend to get everyone's sticky fingers on them as usually you are eating with your hands at a picnic.
Pack ice packs so your white wine doesn't get warm. Nothing spoils a picnic more than warm wine. In fact - warm white wine spoils everything on a hot day. To save space - put ice, or ice packs in a hard plastic tub or bag. Once you have opened your wine - hang the bag on your wine stick and allow the wine to rest in it keeping it cool. Or skip all of that and get yourself one of these Eola Bucket Backpacks.
A great gift for anyone is a wine sleeve that you have chilled before leaving home. It slips over the bottle of wine, and keeps the wine cool. Always chill everything before you leave home, wine, beer food or drinks.
A corkscrew is always handy even if you have a screw cap bottle of wine. Someone is going to want to have their beer or cider bottle opened.
Now for the wine. Quite frankly it could be anyone of your favourites. But to set this outing aside from the usual and mundane - think bubbles. A decent Cava (Spanish sparkling wine), Prosecco or Champagne is perfect for a picnic. Keep them ice cold with the ice packs you have brought along.
Rose is the quintessential picnic wine. Again, any of your favourites apply here. If you love reds (pinot noir chilled is gorgeous with pates, terrines and cheeses) then keep an eye on the alcohol content. I try to pack a wine that sits in the 12 per cent category so that everyone stays tidy in a public place and those who are driving are well within their limits when they get behind the wheel. A big heavy red may seem out of place on a warm summer day, but those who love this style should not be forgotten. A shiraz, syrah, merlot or tempranillo always matches well with most picnics.
Some great Italian whites to try for your next outdoor eating experience are what I always call the three "V's" - vermentino, vernacchia or verdicchio - are crisp fresh white wines, usually lower in alcohol, that pair perfectly with seafood or salmon or chicken.
If you prefer something sweeter or perhaps fruitier and you have packed something with a bit of spice in it - then a riesling, chenin blanc or even a very good quality Moscato d'Asti from Italy is a wonderful picnic wine. The latter, when made in the traditional way from Asti in northern Italy leaves a wonderful, apricot sweetness on the palate balanced with natural acidity. Plus - the alcohol level barely reaches over 4.5 per cent. A sweeter bubbles like a good Moscato (must be made from the muscat grape) is also great with any berries, fruit or tangy cheeses.
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