If you are packing your picnic basket for the park or beach, remember to choose whites that are suitable for drinking outdoors in the heat.
Whether it’s for a fishing trip, or a lazy day on the sand, the key is to choose fresh, vibrant, dry whites with high natural acidity to give you a lift. Forget anything heavily oaked, high in alcohol or low in acidity.
This week I have chosen lesser-known aromatic white grapes like Portugal’s loureiro, Spain’s albarino, France’s picpoul, Hungary’s cserszegi, Italy’s greco and native Greek grapes assytriko and ribola – alongside old favourites like South African chenin blanc, dry German riesling and cool climate unoaked chardonnay from Burgundy.
To enjoy them at their best outdoors, chill them in advance in the fridge and pop them into “rapid ice” wine sleeves to take to the picnic. Alternatively wrap them in wet newspaper or find a running stream near your picnic – liquid cools faster in running water.
Many of these bottles are screwcapped which are so much easier, but don’t forget to pack the pocket corkscrew if you choose one with a cork. Here are my top picnic whites to make the most of our August holiday heatwaves.
PICNIC WHITES UNDER £6
Neszmely, E Hungary: Hilltop Cserszegi 2012 Hilltop Estate Neszmely (£5.95, The Wine Society, www.thewinesociety.com)
Hungary is a great source of inexpensive white blends with moderate alcohol. This is made from the native cross bred cserszegi fuszeres grape, grown overlooking the Danube near the Slovakia border by Eva Keresztury and her son Gabor. What this lacks in depth and concentration, it makes up for in freshness, fragrance, grapey muscat-like flavours and easy-drinkability.
Coastal Region, South Africa: Zalze Bush Vine Chenin Blanc 2012 (£5.99, reduced from £7.99, from 14 August to 10 September, Waitrose)
A fantastic deal on this dry, unoaked beautifully-made chenin. It combines freshness with lots of tropical fruit with a decent length of flavour – exactly what we should expect from chenin. Try the zalze red Rhone-like blend too – another excellent value wine.
Minho, N Portugal: Vinho Verde 2012 Quinta de Azevedo (£5.99 each for 2 bts or £7.99 bt, Majestic Wine; £6.95, The Wine Society)
When did you last buy a vinho verde? It is the ideal white for the heat with its gentle alcohol level and zippy freshness. The best estates in northern Portugal produce delicate floral whites reminiscent of dry rieslings, although the grape is the little-known loureiro.
PICNIC WHITES UNDER £12
Mosel Saar Ruwer, Germany: The Society’s Saar Riesling Von Kesselstatt (£9.50, The Wine Society, www.thewinesociety.com)
Lightly aromatic, nippy high acid, crisp and grapey with a soft fleshiness and a passing hint of sweetness in the mouth – so refined and racy. With only 11 per cent alcohol this is a perfect summer day pick-me-up riesling from Germany’s cooler Saar valley, a tributary of the Mosel. Annagret Reh and her family run the superb von Kesselstatt estate with top holdings in the Saar including Scharzhofberger vineyard.
Languedoc, S France: Picpoul de Pinet Prestige 2012 Domaine Guillaume Cabrol (£7.99 each for 2 bts, or £8.99 bt, Majestic Wine)
Otherwise known as the “lipstinger”, the picpoul grape is ideal for summer quaffing with its extremely high vibrant acid balanced with a lightly creamy leesy palate. Close your eyes and imagine you are sitting by the Med with a bowl of oysters.
Campania, Italy: Taste the Difference Greco di Tufa 2012 (£7.86 reduced from £10.46, until 13 August, Sainsbury’s)
Campania might be further south of Tuscany, but its high altitude and volcanic tufa soils make it the ideal hunting ground for minerally dry whites. Often quite pricey, this nutty citric example from Sainsbury’s enables you to try the style at a relatively affordable price.
Santorini, Greece: Assyrtiko 2011 Hatzidakis (£10.99 bt, Waitrose)
Very fresh, zesty, pristine dry white made from vines woven into basket shapes to avoid wind damage on the island of Santorini. The volcanic soils here give the wines fabulous minerality, which despite their high alcohol make them taste fresh. Hatzidakis make the best on the island to date.
PICNIC WHITES UNDER £20
Kefalonia, Greece: Robola 2012 Gentilini (£14 non-members or £12.60 members, www.thedailydrinker.co.uk, 01380 827291)
An unusual Greek to spice up your picnic. A French entrepreneur first planted vines on this large Greek island in the 19th century, attracted by the rocky limestone soil and cool slopes of Mount Ainos – and the Gentilini family is continuing the tradition. The high quality robola grape makes very spicy citric whites with spicy pear and almond notes, gripping acidity and a gentle spritz, which I found so refreshing quaffing on a hot summer’s evening.
Rias Baixas, Spain: Albarino 2003 Pazo de Barrantes (£14.99, Villeneuve Wines, Peebles; Raeburn Fine Wines, Edinburgh)
Now a popular grape, albarino grows in the remote Rias Baixas region. Hints of green apple and tropical fruit aromas, mineral streaks and high acid, make this taste like a cross between citrusy chardonnay and a floral riesling.
Maconnais, France: Pouilly Fuisse Vignes Blanches 2011 Christophe Cordier (£18.99 each for 2 bts, or £19.99 bt, Majestic Wine)
This might be more than you would expect to pay for a picnic white, but it is one of the most fabulous examples of cool climate chardonnay from southerly Maconnais. Christophe Cordier searches out the best unclassified sites to produce intense, ripe fruity styles with honeyed, creamy depth. This comes from 40-year-old vines, hence the amazing concentration.
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