Summer is the perfect time to go out for a picnic with your friends or family members so, if you want to know how to make this the best experience, our recent post might come in handy. Although it doesn’t sound as fun as barbecuing in your backyard, a picnic is more convenient if you want to get away from the dishes for a few hours and spend some quality time outdoors, soaking in the sun, and enjoying the quiet atmosphere. Here is how to do it properly.
If you plan on going to a winery and enjoying a delightful picnic and a picturesque background, some preparations are in store. First, you should call ahead and ask if you are allowed to set up a picnic there or if there are any picnic tables available at the location. Traditionally, having a picnic involves throwing a blanket on the grass and enjoying the view but tables are more convenient.
Don’t forget to choose a designated driver who will keep you and your family or friends safe if you ever happen to have an extra glass of wine. Never drink and drive or, if you truly want to enjoy the experience, the best idea would be to choose a winery that also provides a bed and breakfast or a place to spend the night and rest.
Finally, consider all the items that you’ll have to bring along to make the most of your day outside. A picnic basket and one-two blankets should be on the top of the list, next to plates, cutlery, napkins, beverage glasses, wine glasses, hand wipes, a cutting board and a knife, and a corkscrew.
When it comes to turning a regular picnic into a fancy celebration, choosing the right menu is the most important step. Pairing is an art, which means that you should know a couple of things about the type of wine you are bringing to the party and what kind of food it goes with the best.
A fancy picnic is never complete without a cheese platter, so why not go the extra mile and bring a variety of delicious types of cheese at the party?
When assembling a cheese platter, variety is important, so have at least five-six different types to satisfy all tastes.
Generally speaking, there are three main types of cheese, so you should make sure you bring at least one-two assortments of each. Aged cheese includes Gouda, aged Cheddar, and Comte, while soft cheese counts for Brie, Camembert, and any kind of goat cheese. If you prefer firm cheeses, Monterey Jack, Gruyere, and Provolone are amongst the most popular.
Smoked cheese, as well as blue cheese, might be too specific, so you should only bring them if you or your friends like them.
After picking the right types of cheese to serve with your wine, consider other entrees, including a selection of bread or pita. Crackers can work too, as long as everyone likes the same kind. As for bread or pita, make sure they are pre-sliced to keep things easier and more convenient.
We all know that cheese doesn’t only go well with wine but also with fruits, so don’t forget about a platter of fresh and dry fruits and nuts. Grapes, dehydrated apricots, cashews, and walnuts are perfectly paired with blue cheese and both soft and hard cheese. Apple and pear slices, figs, jam, raspberries, and even watermelon might be good additions also.
Other entrees can include olives (preferably green Kalamata and Nicoise), roasted red peppers, and cornichons. If you’re on a low-calorie diet, you can replace some of the cheese with hummus and fresh salted veggies (baby carrots, bell peppers, and celery). Finally, all these delights will go perfectly with a third mix platter of your favorite dry and smoked meats – Prosciutto Crudo, salami, and sheep pastrami.
If fancy entrees like cheese, prosciutto, and fruits were not enough to satisfy your appetite, you can bring along some pre-cooked meals, as long as you find a way to keep them hot or you don’t mind eating them cold.
Pizza is the best choice as it is easy to transport and comes in an infinite choice of toppings, according to your preferences. Sandwiches or wraps (think burrito, enchiladas, quesadillas) are also great options but they don’t exactly match the fancy decor of expensive cheese and wine.
Picnic potato salad and other variations of salads can also represent healthy choices, perfect for a picnic outdoors. Just make sure the dressings are as light as possible and you don’t keep the foods directly exposed to sunlight for too long to avoid them going bad.
If you’re looking for a fresh and delicious salad, the Greek one with feta cheese, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, and red onion will be a hit.
The Bulgarian salad is almost the same but contains boiled eggs too and a mayonnaise or yogurt dressing. Similarly, you can opt for the famous Caesar salad, one made with grilled chicken breast, celery, carrots, mayonnaise, sunflower seeds, and apples or for the Oriental salad that includes boiled potatoes.
We recommend that you stick to only one type of salad and a sandwich/pizza as you will probably get stuffed just by eating cheese, fruits, bread, and prosciutto.
Now that you have your menu in order, it’s high time you chose the perfect wine pairing to go with your food specialties. Having a picnic at a winery can be a wonderful experience not only because you’ll get to taste local, delicious wines but also because you’ll enjoy breathtaking sceneries, soaking in during the Golden hour.
If you choose to buy one directly from the winery, you can ask for the best types to go with your food. People will be more than happy to show you how to properly pair your entrees with the right color and wine acidity to make a feast.
If you decide to bring your own wine, don’t go cheap. Given that this is a special occasion, ditch the box wine and any bottle that doesn’t open with a corkscrew.
Generally speaking, light picnic menus pair perfectly with fizzy, demi-dry wines. White, slightly sparkly wines are perfect for cheese platters, whereas rose wines will bring in the best flavors of your meat-based products, including salami and prosciutto. You can also bring a bottle of red dry wine but that might be too “harsh” on the choice of foods.
As for the specific type of wine and grapes, we always recommend going with whatever grows locally as these are the best kinds and will complement your foods.
However, don’t forget that Europeans and Northern Americans have different conceptions when it comes to “a good bottle of wine”. Unfortunately, Americans mainly prefer beer and spirits so, outside the famous Napa Valley vineyards, there are only a few other areas that grow quality grapes and turn them into wine.
The main difference between the wines sold on these two continents is the amount of sugar put in one bottle. For instance, European dry red wine is the strongest kind and has little if any sugar added in it.
On the contrary, finding dry wine in America is not an easy task, as even some liquor stores won’t have it. Most people here prefer sweet wines that resemble grape juice more than an alcoholic beverage. Even demi-dry wines, the most popular kind, taste incredibly sweet.
The main problem you will encounter is that wine producers never state the exact amount of sugar they add to their wines, so it’s almost impossible to tell unless you are a connoisseur. Therefore, we suggest going with local products from small wineries that might be closer to the “book of wines” in Europe.
Sweet and semi-sweet wine is becoming less popular in Europe but Americans still consider it good enough to drink. Our recommendation is to avoid them and opt for dry local wines, especially rose.
In conclusion, preparing and properly packing for a winery picnic might take you a couple of hours but we guarantee it will be worth it once you reach your destination. Having a few hours of fun, enjoying some delicious entrees and the best wines in the county can be the perfect way to unwind after a long week at work, while still keeping the social distance in these troubling times.