Seeking Picnic Perfection
Robin Nugent of Iron and Rose in Shrewsbury's Market Hall says a realistic approach to picnics is best - and suggests two wines that are robust enough to cope with dining outdoors
It is a truth universally acknowledged that when you have found the perfect spot, out of the wind, the dappled shade taking the heat out of the sun, and finally unpack your picnic something will have leaked.
The savoury tart you slaved over will be tepid and have you wondering, and worrying, just how long it has been sub-optimally chilled. The salad will be closer to compost than farm-fresh. And after months of enforced outdoor eating if not in the comfort and over-familiarity of your own home, why would you choose to eschew table and chairs in favour of blankets and bugs?
Because eating al fresco is like chasing a dream. I bet that when you think back over all the meals you have eaten over your life, more of your memories will be of picnics on river banks or barbecues on beaches, breakfasts on balconies overlooking the ocean or meals of bread, cheese and charcuterie by mountain lakes than of dinners in restaurants, however starred they were. They come with smaller bills too.
But what to drink? This is a wine column after all. It’s unlikely you'll have the finest in glassware to drink from (though I did know someone who always travelled with a bespoke case containing two of the finest, hand blown, German stemware, just in case...) And keeping things cool is always a challenge. So it's perhaps not the time to serve your finest wines.
The food too is best if it is robust physically to survive the journey and bold in flavour so it tastes good when you get there, wherever there is. So choose a wine that is equally bold and robust, something that's enjoyable to drink at a less than perfect temperature.
Maybe a red from France's Languedoc or Rhõne. Or go for a wine made from Gamay, the grape that's lubricated a thousand roadside picnics. Avoid whites that are high in alcohol and low in acidity as they can feel like drinking engine oil unless nicely chilled. Choose one that's fresh, bright and vibrant.
Alternatively, for picnic perfection, do your research. Recce the route. Check out the site. Invest in something to carry your picnic in to make sure your food and bottle arrive in the best condition. Choose one special dish, one outstanding wine, the best company to share them with and make a memory you'll never forget.
Two to try:
Judith Beck, Beck Pink, Burgenland, Austria - It's hard to know if Beck 'Pink' is made for sunny spring weather or vice versa. But they're certainly made for each other. A beautiful (and beautifully labelled) dry but intense rosé made in Austria by Judith Beck from local grape Zweigelt. Bursting with red fruits and herbal touches.
Cognettes, Le Pas Rouge, IGP Loire, France - Seventh generation farmers Vincent and Stephane Perraud farm around 25 hectares near the medieval village of Clisson. There’s nothing backward about their winemaking though. This wine is made from Gamay, the grape of Beaujolais, and has that grapes abundant fruit and freshness but here with a vein of savoury, almost salty character running through it. Perfect with patés, rillettes and the like.