Picnic Wines

September brings us the last days of summer and the year’s final opportunity for sun-drenched picnics. But how do we choose a suitable wine to ease us out of fancy-free summer and into the formality of fall?

Why not go regional or, at least, Canadian? You’ll cut down on the greenhouse gas emissions required to transport the wine, and you’ll support our growers and producers.

Local Pairings

“Three of my favourite picnic wines are Niagara Rieslings from Henry of Pelham, Strewn, and Vineland Estates,” says Ottawa wine expert Natalie MacLean, author of Red, White, and Drunk All Over and a free newsletter featuring thousands of wine and food pairings, available at nataliemaclean.com.

To complement picnic fare–from salads and paté to smoked salmon and chicken–try the Reisling from Niagra’s Konzelmann Estate Winery or from BC’s Hillside Estate.

Organic From Around the World

Maybe your bias is toward organics, no matter their country of origin. Vancouver wine consultant and judge DJ Kearney is certainly a fan. She recommends Domaine de L’Olivette Blanc 2006 as an ideal picnic accompaniment; it’s an organic Southern French white vins de pays that’s a blend of Grenache, Bourboulenc, and Marsanne.

“The beguiling flavours of dried mixed citrus peel and garrigue (Provençal) herbs are perfect for the change of seasons,” says Kearney, who is also a chef. “I’d plan a picnic with a warm Mediterranean muffuletta sandwich, oozing pesto, cheese, and prosciutto, for this savoury white, or maybe a piquant salad of marinated mussels and a crusty loaf.”

Kearney’s alternative for an organic red in late fall, as the temperature starts to drop, is the Finca Luzon Monastrell 2006 from Bodegas Luzon in Jumilla, Spain. “It’s a lusty Spanish red from old vine Monastrell with no end of exuberant, black, plummy fruit, but also a gentle mellowness that is essentially autumnal,” she explains. “A smoky, spicy pulled pork bun or a steaming flask of beef and barley soup would temper the crisp weather.”

For a picnic wine whose buzz is more than alcoholic, Kearney recommends South Africa’s organic Winds of Change Pinotage-Shiraz 2004, the first certified Fair Trade wine available in Canada. It’s a product of African Terroir Wine’s Tribal winery, a participant in South Africa’s Black Economic Empowerment program.

“The wine is full-flavoured, mouth-coating, and rib-sticking,” she says. “I’d want some seriously smoky food with this fruit grenade–like a grilled chorizo in a bun or simply a selection of prime charcuterie, aged cheese, and chewy bread.”

Lusty food, curvy wine, and a bit of altruism sound just right for the season. Santé! Let the leaves fall where they may.

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