Picnic Wines, Or How to Drink Well, Outside

May  2, 2013

We may have food down cold, but wine? This is where we'll conquer it. Join us; we don't want to drink alone. 

Today: It's warm -- go picnic. Bring these strategies for whites, reds, and even packaging, with you. 

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For me picnics are all about logistics: the set up, the food, the wine. For my friend Elizabeth, who plans picnics and outdoor events as part of her job, they’re all about keeping it simple.

“Cathy,” she says to me in her southern drawl, “Caaa-THEE, just bring the wine that most people are going to like. Trust me, honey.”

If You Like White
Most people at a picnic will like a white wine. They’re often crisp and fresh and well-suited to sipping casually, outdoors. If you go with a white, look for Albariño from Spain’s Rías Baixas or Torrontes from Argentina -- especially if you’re eating a salad like this, or roast chicken

More: Find yourself waiting for others at your picnic? We have you covered.

If You Like Red
Red wines can work well too, especially lighter reds with less alcohol. Look for wines made from the Gamay grape in France’s Beaujolais (extra points if you find one from the pitch-perfect 2009 vintage!), or Rhône blends from the Languedoc-Roussillon region. For something to eat alongside, look no further than this Salad Niçoise.

Consider the Box (And: The Screw Cap is Your Friend) 
Another element to picking perfect picnic wines is choosing technology that’s sensitive to the environment. (Because we are dining outdoors, after all.) Think screw caps and boxed wine -- and forget the stereotypes.

Metal screwcap closures are easily recyclable, plus there’s no need to add a corkscrew to your picnic basket. Boxed wine doesn’t allow air to enter the package, so the wine lasts longer (weeks for boxes instead of days for bottles), and the carbon footprint of boxed wines is significantly smaller than wines in glass bottles. Consider the fact that boxes are shatter-proof just another added bonus. 

For the perennial favorite picnic wine – Rosé -- look for Comptoirs de Magdala Rosé in boxes, and please rest assured: it’s good wine! (We promise.) For a screw cap, Bonny Doon’s Vin Gris de Cigare is a long-time favorite, and Donkey and Goat Grenache Rosé will quickly become a new one.

If All Else Fails, Find a Great Bottle Near the Park
Arm yourself with an app. Slow Food Editore has published an iOS app that connects users to more than 400 Italian producers who meet the Slow Food criteria for sustainable winemaking. By “connects,” we mean literally: the app includes a location-based service that tells you where in the U.S. you can buy the wines, whether you’re at a restaurant in New York, a wine shop in Seattle, or on your way to a picnic anywhere else.

Start with simplicity, add a nod or two to technology, and your perfect picnic wines can last you all summer long. Trust me, honey.

Photos by James Ransom

Read More:
If You Can't Afford This Bottle, Go with That
A Hearty Picnic Salad: Haricots Verts à la Dijonnaise
Pan Bagnat: Le French Tuna Salad Sandwich 

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • emily olson
    emily olson
  • Cathy Huyghe
    Cathy Huyghe
Cathy Huyghe

Written by: Cathy Huyghe

Best advice I've ever heard regarding wine? "Just drink the stuff."


emily O. May 2, 2013
Some outdoor friendly wines: Y&B (yellow & blue) wines come in tetra-pack liter sizes (both red & white options) and cost $10-12. What's great about a liter is that you can get an extra glass or two out of the package! For fans of white wines (particularly Viognier), Crios Torrontes is lovely option & great to support a very talented female winemaker.
Cathy H. May 3, 2013
Thank you, Emily. Great ideas and suggestions. This topic -- wines to drink while you're eating outdoors -- opens the door to so many ideas and possibilities, food and wine alike!