The beginning of June marks two very different changes in various parts of the country.
In the north, as temperatures rise above the 70s and all is green and lush again, it’s time for the season’s first picnic. In the south, as temperatures pass 90 degrees and humidity keeps pace, it’s time for the season’s last picnic.
Either way, it’s picnic time. Or, as the old Smoky Mountains folk song put it: “All-day singin’ and supper on the ground, old folks and young ’uns gathered round. Every kind of vittle you ever did see, come along Mary and sit by me.”
If they’d mentioned wine in the song, I’m sure it would have been the crisp, light-bodied, not-super-serious ones that go with warm weather and casual outdoor foods. Wines that don’t cost a lot, since you’ll be distracted by the flying Frisbees and cavorting children.
If you look around to make sure the wine police aren’t looking, you can thrust bottles of these wines into the ice chest with the beer and sodas, reveling in the fact that this will chill them below the usual drinking temperature even for white wines. This will make them more refreshing in warm weather.
Picnics require wine-food pairings different from those at sit-down dinners. Use some whimsy. Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurant in Key West, used to feature a blackened hot dog with a bottle of Dom Perignon Champagne for $101. Bubbly is also the finest match for KFC chicken, with those crisp bubbles stripping the fat from your tongue between bites.
Grilled cheeseburgers call for soft, simple red wines. A wide range of picnic foods, from deviled eggs to deli sandwiches, go well with crisp, cool, dry rose wines. Fruit served fresh or in salads cries out for slightly sweet moscatos or rieslings. Grilled chicken or macaroni salad go well with light, crisp white wines.
In serving these wines, you might even take inspiration from country singer Toby Keith’s song Red Solo Cup.
“Now a red solo cup is the best receptacle
For barbecues, tailgates, fairs and festivals
And you, sir, do not have a pair of (rhymes with festivals, sort of)
If you prefer drinking from glass.”
• 2010 Redbreast Riesling by Mozelle Winery, Mosel, Germany: lightly sweet, flavors of ripe peaches and minerals; $14.
• 2009 Murphy-Goode Merlot, Calif.: soft and rich, with flavors of black raspberries and spice; $14.
• 2010 Santi Moscato Montedoro, Veneto, Italy: floral aroma, lightly sweet peach flavors; $12.
• 2009 Centine Rosso, by Banfi, Tuscany (sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon and merlot grapes): soft and light-bodied, with black cherry flavors; $11.
• 2010 Rodney Strong “Charlotte’s Home” Sauvignon Blanc, Northern Sonoma: light and lively and crisp, with flavors of apples and lemons; $13.
• 2009 Tudal Family “Tractor Shed Red,” Calif. (cabernet franc, merlot, sangiovese, zinfandel): soft and rich, with red plum flavors; $11.
• 2011 Fisheye Winery Shiraz, South Eastern Australia: soft and spicy, with flavors of black raspberries and cinnamon; $7.
• 2009 Redwood Creek Pinot Noir, Calif.: soft and spicy, with flavors of blueberries and cherries;
• 2010 Calina Chardonnay, Aconcagua, Chile: soft and fruity, with flavors of apricots and minerals; $10.
• 2011 Woodbridge Sauvignon Blanc, by Robert Mondavi, Calif.: crisp and light, with flavors of green pineapple; $8.