The Perfect Picnic Wine

Perfect pairings for the picnic basket.


Story by Charles Fredy

wine advice by Charles FredyPicnic wines are a great way to enhance any outdoor experience. They can range from simple to complex, and fit any budget. Be creative, but choose wines you really like. It’s hard to change your mind in a remote location, and impractical to carry multiple selections.

And don’t forget the corkscrew and the glasses, or even the best wines will go south. I always travel with a couple of nice, durable wine glasses and try to make the wine and food memorable. Glass is always a better choice than plastic. Even a simple rock glass will do.

An important point when picnicking is to keep your wine at the right temperature. The worst thing you can do is drink warm wine. I find it a bit challenging to drink red wine while baking in the sun, so find some shade, keep it cool, and you’re off and running. There are also great backpacks, picnic bags and insulated wine jackets that will help keep the bottles cool.

And, hey, it’s a picnic. Why not splurge a little? Go for a rich, succulent chardonnay from Hartford to pair with your fresh ‘ahi sandwich, or a reasonably priced pinot noir or nuit St. George from Louis Jadot, paired with slices of your favorite beef on a fresh-baked bun. After all, it’s about the experience and etching it deep into the archives.

On the red side, pinot noir is a good choice. Its high acid structure makes it extremely versatile with all kinds of foods, and the varietal has the ability to mirror many flavors. If, for example, your fare is spicy, the pinot will pick up that flavor. I also enjoy sangiovese, another very versatile wine. Sangiovese is widely used in Tuscany. There, and throughout Italy, wine is considered food, and the wine they typically produce will be very food-friendly. But more important than finding the perfect match is to find what you enjoy. Robust reds like cabernet sauvignon make my hit list, because they’re what I love to drink.

Cold wines are perfect and refreshing on hot days, so for the beach, white wine is a natural: a chardonnay such as Sonoma-Cutrer, or something lighter, like a sauvignon blanc or pinot gris, works great. If you like a touch of sweetness or a lot of fruit in your wine, consider a viognier or riesling. And for that special moment, stash a half bottle of Taittinger Champagne. Add a few strawberries, something sweet, and it’s a match made in heaven.

Whatever you choose, make it special and have a great adventure.

Best Wine for a Secluded Beach

Felton Road, Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand, 2006, Stelvin Closure
It’s the perfect wine to put you in a romantic mood.

Best Wine on a Chilly Mountaintop

Foley, Syrah, Santa Rita Hills, Rancho Santa Rosa, California, 2004
You need a nice, juicy red wine up there to keep you warm.

Best Wine for a Campout at Ke‘anae

Chalk Hill, Chardonnay, Sonoma, California, 2004
Almost everybody loves Chardonnay—it’s a crowd pleaser.

Best Wine to Stow in a Saddlebag

Domaine Laroche, Chablis, Premier Cru, Burgundy, 2004, Stelvin Closure
“Stelvin closure” is a type of screw top, but don’t let the concept fool you.
It’s actually more expensive than cork, so the bottle is easier to reseal, and keeps air out very well. Another benefit: Stelvin closures generally will prevent any “cork taint” in the wine, which occurs when you get a bad, “musty” cork.

Best Wine for a Secluded Picnic for Two

Château d’Aqueria, Tavel, Rose, France, 2006
Why? Because nothing says “I love you” like a rose!

Charles Fredy is a sommelier and certified wine specialist with the Society of Wine Educators. A thirty-year veteran of the wine and spirits industry, he is vice president of Better Brands, Maui.


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