Perfect Picnic Wines

Written by
Michael Jappy
February 16, 2017
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“Although it’s best to follow some simple guidelines when matching your picnic fare to your wine choice there’s no strict rules - so have some fun.” Hours of endless sunshine mean that al fresco dining can become a regular treat over the balmy summer months. Lighting up the barbeque at home is as Australian as Vegemite (once was), but sometimes there’s nothing better than dusting off the tartan blanket, filling up the picnic basket and heading off to a quiet spot to indulge in some delicious nibbles while savouring the summer weather.

Breaking the rules

Although it’s best to follow some simple guidelines when matching your picnic fare to your wine choice there’s no strict rules - so have some fun. Crisp, clean whites are a great choice when dining al fresco, and there is nothing crisper and cleaner than the classic zippy lime and blossom-infused Rieslings of the Clare Valley. Riesling cries out for food so perhaps some smoked salmon, anchovies and sardines or cold prawns and a Thai salad could kick things off, all of which would match perfectly to a bottle of the exceptional (and well-priced) Jim Barry Watervale Riesling.

Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris are also classic al fresco options as their bright, clean fruit profile mean versatility when matching with food. Think Caesar salad, chips and dips and lovely crunchy coleslaw. Marlborough in New Zealand has become the home of southern hemisphere Sauvignon Blanc, but the region also produces some wonderful Pinot Gris. ‘The Ned’, made by one of the regions superstar winemakers, is sensational when matched with a range of savoury treats and keeps things fresh with some bracing acidity balancing up the spicy fruit character of the wine.

Talking of superstar winemakers, if it’s sauvignon blanc that tickles your taste buds why not try the Shaw and Smith from the Adelaide Hills. It’s sauvignon with restraint, still showcasing all the lovely punchy cut grass and passionfruit aromas we associate with the variety but done with subtlety and style.

Bolder Whites

If richer and righteous is your preferred white wine style then look no further than chardonnay, the king of white varietals. It would be best to avoid some of the riper, oakier styles as they can look a bit flabby out in the sun, but don’t be afraid to reach for something leaner along the lines of ‘The Parish’ made by chardonnay maestro David Bicknell in the Yarra valley. The pithy nectarine and peach skin character of the wine are subtly supported by lovely weight and texture and would partner up with the classic cold sausage rolls, gruyere tarts and even charcuterie that all help to make your picnic a special one.

Once seen as a bit of a novelty and not for the more serious wine aficionados, a glass of rosé or two can also be a reliable tipple for the summer months. Sticking with the Yarra valley, the Dominique Portet Fontaine rosé is a perfect wine to match up to the smorgasbord of treats in your picnic basket. Crisp, slightly savoury, but full of lovely crunchy summer berry fruits it’s a serious rosé for serious summer al fresco dining!

Don’t forget the reds…

Talking of cold meats and charcuterie it would be remiss of the host not to have a bottle or two of red handy for the day in the sunshine. Lighter-bodied reds work exceptionally well with the summer sun and can complement the range of food on offer nicely. A little insider tip: some lighter reds work wonderfully when you pop them in the fridge for a short while. Serving them slightly chilled brings out their lovely, crunchy fruitiness and helps keep things light and bright on warmer days. Think varieties like tempranillo with its lovely red fruit and subtly earthiness. Think Grenache for its wonderfully spicy, floral personality. For the brave, try something different - Gamay, the classic grape variety of Beaujolais in France, is the classic picnic red. Bright, light and crunchy, Henry Fessy Beaujolais Village is so devilishly moreish (and cheap!) you should probably grab a couple to ensure your other picnic guests don’t drink you dry.