Park life: five bottles for alfresco affairs


A pre-pandemic harvest lunch at Kusuda, New Zealand. Photograph: Jason Lowe

In the age of social distancing, we’re all spending more time outdoors. Whether it’s a picnic, cocktails on the balcony, a beachfront feast or park drinks, Fine Wine Specialist Jared Ehret suggests five bottles perfectly suited to savouring in the great outdoors

I get up when I want except on Wednesdays when I get rudely awakened by the dustmen…” It seems we’ve all been enjoying a bit more Parklife recently, as gardens, beaches and urban greens provide welcome space for well overdue but distanced catchups. Despite the circumstances, however, there is no reason these alfresco meetings need be any less convivial. So, whether you’re hosting a picnic, playing rounders on the common or simply unwinding on the decking, here is some inspiration for your next outdoor tipple – to save you the misery of a tepid supermarket gin in a tin.

Much like food, there are certain drinks that just taste better in the great outdoors, and those that fall a bit flat. A cold lager whilst critiquing the barbecue chef, for instance, will always taste far better than the same can drunk indoors. Equally, I’d contend these are not the circumstances for that fine Claret you’ve had gathering dust – clearly a bottle more suited to a beautifully laid dining table. The added distractions of being outside demand a slightly more boisterous rather than ethereal approach, so whether its slightly higher alcohol, riper fruit or of course simply a bigger bottle, your open-air choices should always be turned up to 11 – just don’t forget the corkscrew.

We begin as frankly any afternoon ought to with the frosty bite of a seriously chilled nip of Manzanilla. Lustau’s Papirusa is firmly on my (very short) list of alcoholic drinks it’s acceptable to consider before midday, and a solitary measure pilfered from the fridge door while waiting for guests or “preparing the salads” is a highlight of the weekend. The perfect match for all foods and none, an espresso cup of gazpacho alongside takes each to a new level of refreshment.

Bedrock’s Wirz Riesling from Cienega Valley was a recent discovery and absolute revelation for me. It is unmistakable in varietal character, but quite unlike examples that hail from either side of the Rhine or the Antipodes. Fleshy, firmly textured and just the right side of heady, this delivers a sense of all-American extravagance atop Riesling’s fine boned frame. It is complex enough to be interesting without demanding too much of the drinker, the perfect crowd-pleasing session white.

You’d think me a mad man if I neglected to include a rosé considering the brief, and when it comes to the pink stuff, standard bottles are just a waste of time. Make a real impression both visually and gustatory with Muse de Miraval, the new super-cuveé from the Brangelina Provence stable. Just 2,000 magnums were produced by Marc Perrin from estate-grown fruit to rival the best of the region. The Joneses will be suitably impressed.

Time wears on, shadows lengthen and flames fade, time for a spot of red and the golden hour is improved immeasurably by Le Soula Rouge. The 2013 is à point and shows much more promise than bottles made in that year from the rest of France. A surfeit of warm brambly forest fruit has now evolved into autumn spice, game and garrigue so evocative of its origins. Its comforting depth and uplifting freshness effortlessly bridges early evening to “gosh is that the time”, and just begs for that last sausage that looked a bit too burnt earlier.

Finally, a sundowner par excellence in the form of our own-label Panama Rum, the embodiment of liquid sunshine. Not a hint of the sticky sweetness that mars so many examples of this category, this is to be treated with as much reverence as any malt. It would be the ideal accompaniment to long lively card games played on a veranda; I take mine simply with a single large ice cube to combat sultry evenings.

Browse our full range on