Cork Corner — a Taste of the Wine Industry: Wine and Picnic Food: What a Great Pairing

Autumn is still great time to enjoy picnic wines. What types are most likely to be found in a picnic basket these days?

A pleasant glass of wine at a backyard picnic, beach party or concert in the park is a wonderful summer treat. Choices abound, but here are some ideas:

Even though I’m not a big fan of Rosés, they are popular and definitely should be served chilled to go with most picnic food, including sandwiches, fried chicken and even hot dogs and hamburgers.

Rosés are usually made by stacking or pressing grape skins and collecting the run-off juice. A variety of grapes have been used to make Rosé, including Chardonnay fruit as well as Zinfandel berries and even Syrah grapes – not all in the same fermenting vat, though.

Depending on how the “bleeding” or stacking process is used in making a Rosé, its color can vary in appearance from a pale white wine to a bright pink. I think many women, including my mom, preferred the color and fruity taste of the Rosé that Santa Barbara Winery produced. I always took her two bottles.

Some sparkling wines, such as Asti and Lambrusco, are also tasty with picnic food and can be quite refreshing on a hot day since they are lower in alcohol compared Rosés and most other wines.

One of my favorite picnic wines is Semillon. I first enjoyed this light, grassy varietal at a wine junket picnic at a Cajun-Creole restaurant in Napa. Served lightly chilled, Semillon complements spicy food, grilled fish, crawfish, jambalaya, shrimp etouffee and even roast rabbit.

Another favorite is Pinot Grigio, which is a somewhat dry Italian-style white wine that is reasonably priced and widely available in California markets. One of my favorite pairings is red potato salad and a big ham or club sandwich with a crisp glass of Pinot Grigio.

A wine that used to be quite popular at picnics is Sauvignon Blanc. I can remember years ago when Sauvignon Blancs were just a bit fruity, cheaper and lighter than other whites such as Chardonnay. But in the past 15 years or so, I noticed some winemakers have been giving Sauvignon Blancs more muscle. By that I mean more complexity, a bigger nose and a lot more satisfaction.

Now, some Sauvignon Blancs I have tried in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties have a lot more pear, citrus and even oak in them. That’s quite a change from say 25 years ago when they were the first white wine on the tasting room list, followed by a Rosé, followed by a new Chardonnay, and so on.

At a picnic, Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with a fish or chicken sandwich or tacos as well as maybe a Cobb salad or perhaps a Cesar salad.

If you want to pay more for a white wine served at a picnic, I suggest Viognier. These grapes are harder to grow and usually have smaller yields. However, I would say most Viogniers I have tried go well with any fish, chicken, salad or Alfredo pasta.

I’m not going to completely rule out red wines at a picnic. A good Tempranillo or maybe a Barbera might be the best thing to pair with a roast beef or meatloaf sandwich or green salad with strips of rare tri-tip. Now that’s mouth-watering.

However, after a picnic such as that the next best thing to have might be a nice nap. Why not? If it’s summer or fall, why not have some sweet dreams about that next glass of wine?