Our pick of the best picnic wines
Author: Stewart Turner
With picnic season upon us, we turned to our Head Chef Stewart Turner for inspiration and guidance on preparing a delicious spread. Discover Stewart’s simple picnic tricks, alongside a selection of summer-friendly bottles handpicked by our wine specialist Isabella Cameron.
When planning a picnic, it’s important to start with good-quality ingredients. Most will be served as they are, such as cheese and charcuterie. I always opt for delicious, high-quality olive oil and fresh sourdough bread.
I like to use raw seasonal vegetables to form a selection of crudités, which I’ll serve with my homemade hummus or aïoli. These vegetables can also be used to make up a salad. One of my favourites is roasted Provençal vegetables with cous cous or tabouleh.
I’ll usually include some peas or broad beans, dressed very simply in a classic French dressing or just with lemon juice and olive oil. Fresh herbs are also an excellent way to enliven simple dishes.
Asparagus – a great early summer gem – goes beautifully with homemade mayonnaise. I am also a big fan of a Panzanella salad made with fresh heirloom tomatoes, or creamy burrata drizzled with good olive oil. In terms of meat and fish, a classic coronation chicken, tuna niçoise or shellfish cocktail is always guaranteed to go down a treat.
Picnic-friendly fine wines
A well-balanced picnic comes down to the right combination of fresh, easy dishes and delicious, summer-friendly wines. Discover Isabella’s suggestions for fine wines to complement Stewart’s simple picnic dishes.
To kick off a summer picnic, where better to start than a bottle of fizz. Champagne Billecart-Salmon Rosé gives a wealth of raspberries and strawberries and a touch of dried strawberry with roasted nuts. Rosé is versatile with food, and the tantalising acidity in Champagne provides a perfect way to wake up the taste buds before tucking into an array of flavours on the picnic blanket.
The ingredients and dishes in a picnic can have all manner of flavours and textures: acidity from dressings, creaminess from homemade hummus or burrata, peppery spice from charcuterie. With a lot going on, it’s good to focus on wines that have prominent acid levels, not only to refresh the palate but to match acidity levels and cut through oil and fat. This Sancerre will do just that, with intense crushed stones and hint of oak on the nose, followed by a mouthful of juicy limes and lemons and a saline note on the finish. Full of silky texture and complexity.
As you tuck into coronation chicken or Provençal vegetables with tabouleh, I recommend this delicious white Southern Rhône blend. The nose entices with honeysuckle and ripe citrus notes, with a layer of peach and a hint of cooked lemon. The citrus note continues on the palate and there is a lovely roundness to the wine complemented by a subtle richness.
I am a big fan of Sicilian wines – in particular those from the Etna area. The grapes grown here have a salinity and purity of fruit that echo Etna’s volcanic soils, altitude and proximity to the sea. The 2018 Etna Rosso by Graci is an ideal picnic guest, perfect if you have a selection of hard cheeses to help soften the chalky tannins. This wine has a wealth of elegant crunchy strawberries and red cherries, easing into a herbal character with a mineral edge. There’s a wonderful freshness on the finish with a noticeable grip.
Explore our Provence picnic hamper here.
For more summer recipe inspiration, take a look at Stewart’s recipe for piri-piri prawns here.