Surely this year, here in the UK we deserve a good summer? The jet stream owes us more than just a few random non-rainy days and in anticipation of a heat wave or two, in my next couple of posts, I will share my idea of summer wine choices whilst dining al fresco.
Part One: Picnics
Everybody loves a picnic. Or do they? It appears not, according to this blogger (Free falling into 40). Yet, even as an avid picnic goer, I agree with what she’s saying. My own bugbears are;
a) drinks falling over
b) young children standing in pots of humous or up ending plates
d) packing away dried up sandwiches ‘for later’ even though you suspect that the filling may now be poisonous after basking in the sun for 90 minutes.
e) carrying all of the paraphenalia. In my younger years, everything had to be disposable. These days I enjoy the luxury of a wicker basket and real knives and forks. This is only worthwhile if the car is within reach, and adds the feasibility of folding picnic benches, cricket sets, gazebos, massive cool boxes with a complete dressed salmon into the mix.
Apart from this, what’s there not to love about picnics? Enjoying the outdoors, a lunch consisting of lots of crisps and those funny little mini scotch eggs that you only eat at picnics or Christening buffets, no sweeping up crumbs and debris from small folk. For me, no picnic is complete without a glass or two of wine. I need a reward for making and packing up all those fiddly little packages of food after all. But be warned, wine drinking at picnics requires some pre-thought, so here are some tips for the less initiated (I have learnt from my own past omissions);
1) If there’s even a slight chance of you forgetting the cork screw, only ever consider a wine bottle that requires none.
2) Don’t forget some kind of drinking receptacles – and take more than you think you’ll need (there’s nothing more antisocial than if someone you knows pops up and you can’t offer them a drink). Unless you’re super cool, you may not want to take glass on a picnic, but I do recommend splashing out on some plastic wine ‘glasses’ as no matter what anyone says, in my opinion, what you drink wine from does make a difference. Having experienced drinking wine from a plastic pint beaker, a small Winnie the Pooh party cup and cardboard ‘pick your nose‘ cups on more than one occasion, (all better than swigging from the bottle however) you’ll have to trust me on this.
3) If you’re going to struggle to keep it cool, go for a red wine. There really is no excuse though for warm white (or pink) wine – just invest in a simple bottle cooler sleeve (and you can use at home to speed up cooling a bottle in the freezer) or look out for limited edition Champagne gifts that include an ice jacket, like this very fetching Veuve Cliquot Rose Birdsong example (just see their faces drop, when it’s just Cava inside, you may want to forewarn).
Suggestions (no corkscrew required);
- English Sparkling wine; Up there rivalling champagne, getting better by the year and gives that local produce warm feeling. Try Stanlake Park’s Stanlake Brut £18.99 (direct from the cellar door); the same grape varieties as Champagne, same production method, just from Berkshire; Check out greatsparkling.co.uk for local producers throughout England.
- Chilean Pinot Noir; Pinot Noir, a lighter red, perfect for the warmer weather, famously from Burgundy and a new world favourite from New Zealand. Although either of the aforementioned Pinots are picnic acceptable, if you’re looking for more value for money (if you’re worried about the inevitable spillages), try one from Chile such as the Anakena Pinot Noir from Old Butcher’s Wine Cellar in Cookham for £6.99.
- Picpoul de Pinet; If you like a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or citrusy, non-oaked Chardonnay, look no further. It may be in a funny shaped bottle, but don’t be fooled, this wine is a serious dry white wine generally paired with seafood. From Languedoc-Rousillon, SW France this perfect picnic white is fresh and minerally and superb value (and my favourite ‘next big thing’ wine). Give the Majestic Villemarin Picpoul de Pinet a go for £6.49 (buy 2 bottles).
I’d love to hear about your favourite picnic spots or any picnic tips. What do you swear by when serving wine at a picnic and what’s your recommended tipple?
Barbecues coming soon….