Wines to Make Your Picnic Hum

“Never plan a picnic’ Father said, ‘Plan a dinner, yes, or a house, or a budget, or an appointment with the dentist, but never, never plan a picnic.” The father of Elizabeth Enright, American writer of children’s books, has a point.

Picnics are the antithesis of dinner parties and perhaps best express the age in which we live: spur-of-the-moment, casual and fun. Any cooking is done beforehand, everyone contributes something.

As everyone unfurls their offering on the picnic rug, an eclectic mix usually unfolds: someone will probably bring a salad; cold meats will feature strongly; no doubt there will be a selection of cheeses.

We have come a long way from the picnics of our childhood: gone are the packets of crisps, a few lettuce leaves and some cold sausages. Foreign travel has opened our eyes to a smörgåsbord of culinary sensations that spill out onto the picnic rug: Hummus from the Levant and Tzatsiki from Greece; spicy Chorizo sausage from the Iberian Peninsula; delicate slices of dry-cured Prosciutto ham from Parma in Italy. We have never had it so good gastronomically.

Choosing something to drink with such a wide range of tastes and flavours can be challenging. Picnics are generally a lunchtime occasion, so you don’t want something that is going to put you into a deep slumber.

So what are you looking for in a picnic wine? There are three key ingredients: it must be light and refreshing; a picnic wine also needs to be versatile, adapting to a wide range of flavours; it must, crucially, be low in alcohol.

Here are my top 5 suggestions to make your picnic hum:

1. Rosé Wines

Rosé wines tick all the right boxes: their light, fresh flavours mean the palate won’t tire; they are extremely versatile, combining the refreshing qualities of a white wine with the ‘meatier’ attributes of a red wine.

Rarely more than 11% Alcohol by Volume (ABV), they are the perfect accompaniment to cold roast beef fillet or a salad Nicoise.Whether you choose a classic from Provence or a young pretender from California, it really is hard to go wrong with a rosé.

2. Prosecco

For a long time one of Italy’s undiscovered gems, the persistent, refreshing mousse of this sparkling wine from the Alpine hills north of Treviso is just the thing to start off a picnic. Medium Dry to Extra Dry, 11% ABV, it makes friends easily with a green bean salad or Pesto chicken rolls

3. Moscato d’Asti

Rarely more than 11% ABV, this semisweet wine from Piedmont in the North west of Italy is the epitome of summer. It will tame the heat of those chicken skewers with a satay dip and is the perfect accompaniment to strawberries.

4. Riesling

There is nothing better on a glorious summer’s day than a glass of classic German Riesling Kabinett. Off-dry to the taste, with a mouthwatering acidity, this is the perfect match for chicken liver patéor aspicy Vietnamese chicken sandwich (Banh Mi). Best of all, it is a very friendly 10% ABV.

5. Beaujolais

Some of us, whatever the circumstances, prefer red wine. The trouble is those powerful, tannic reds made from Shiraz, Cabernet and Grenache will overpower you, not just the food.

The Beaujolais region, sandwiched between Burgundy to the North and The Côtes du Rhône to the South, has the answer: light fruity reds made from the Gamay grape variety, low in tannins (the stuff that sticks to your teeth) and a modest 10-13% ABV.

Chill them for about twenty minutes and they go beautifully with your chickpea hummus or smoked salmon.

Other wine recommendations worth experimenting with: Sauvignon Blanc, Vinho Verde, Unoaked Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Manzanilla Sherry.

Article written for Live To Eat by Charles Waters, Charles is an Independent Wine Consultant, Blogger and Professional Copywriter. See more of Charles’s work at


Leave a Comment