Get involved! Send your photos, video, news & views by texting BA NEWS to 80360 or e-mail us
7:00am Saturday 21st July 2012 in Lifestyle
Fancy a drink? Our drinks columnist Sam Wylie-Harris raises her glass to the picnic season and uncorks some bottles for the hamper.
Summer sipping alfresco.
Traditionally a feel-good month, July is the perfect time for picnics in the park and lazing in the garden with a top drop and a tempting spread.
Much loved by the Victorians, the joy of a moveable feast is that families can put the lid on more formal entertaining and venture into the great outdoors with blankets, wicker baskets and a generously sized cooler bag.
Chilling drinks for alfresco dining on warm, sunny days is no mean task, and freezer packs plus a bag of ice will keep your favourite wines chilled to perfection, and help maintain their refreshing acidity.
For posh picnics, a bottle of fizz is a must-have for glass or plastic stemware, and Aldi has a new champagne that's poised to be a runaway success this summer. Try Champagne Philizot Brut Numero 3, France (£12.99, Aldi), a blend of the three classic champagne grapes, chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. It's fresh with delicate lemon and floral notes, good depth of flavour and a nice toastiness on the finish.
A winning ingredient with all our salty favourites, a dry sherry from southern Spain such as Tio Pepe Fino (£9.47, 75cl, major supermarkets) will complement salt and vinegar crisps, pork scratchings, salted almonds and anchovies. Served well chilled, the clean and refreshing nutty character of fino sherry makes a delicious aperitif in the open air; and a palate cleanser before the paper plates and napkins are passed around.
Should the sun refuse to shine, it's easy to remind yourself of warmer days with a sip of cold Mateus Rose Original, Portugal (£5.49, major supermarkets). Boasting a newly revamped bottle to celebrate its 70th anniversary (though it's retained its iconic rounded edges), this is an easy-drinking rose that's fruity and fresh with a hint of fizz that makes it the perfect alternative to sparkling wine or beer, and a delicious accompaniment to seafood sandwiches and soft cheeses.
Another good drinking partner for sharing tables, try Santa Rita 120 Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Chile (£5.99 each if you buy two or £7.49 per bottle, Majestic) for a zippy, fresh white to pair with a plate of fresh prawns and aioli dip, or goats' cheese tart and salad. It's green and tangy with a pleasant rush of grapefruit and gooseberry flavours, a limey finish, and a refreshing, uncomplicated New World style.
A South of France favourite for ice buckets and dining alfresco, picpoul is a fresh, citrus flavoured white wine and light summer quaffer. For a very drinkable example, try AOC Picpoul de Pinet, Domaine de la Viste, Coteaux du Languedoc 2011, France (£7.50, www.jeroboams.co.uk). Crisp and sharp with good minerality, serve it with quiche and mild French cheeses.
Beyond Sardinia, sun-drenched Sicily is a source for mouth-watering vermentino such as Trazzera Vermentino 2011, Sicily (£8.29, www.laithwaites.co.uk). A vibrant creamy white with a long spicy finish, it's an ideal partner for grilled octopus or barbecued sardines at a casual cookout.
For Italian wine lovers looking for an alternative to pinot grigio, this blend of three traditional Campania grapes carries the same freshness, along with a herbal element and dollop of citrus fruit. Try Triade Fiano/Falanghina/Greco 2011 Campania, Italy (£8.54, Waitrose) for an informal white with bright acidity to pair with pasta salads and chargrilled vegetables.
Picnic reds usually signal a lightly chilled Beaujolais, but I prefer to sin with zin and Beringer Classic Zinfandel 2010, California (£8.99, Asda) is pure plummy pleasure. Courtesy of the oldest winery in Napa Valley, it's a silky smooth zinfandel with soft tannins, subtle spice and the perfect pour with charcuterie and roast beef sandwiches.
Alternatively, if you can't resist a brooding South American red on a sultry summer's evening, try Carmen Reserva Carmenere, Chile (£7.19, Majestic). Rich with savoury blackberry fruit, cassis, spice and a dusting of dark chocolate, this weighty carmenere suits spicy sausages and duck pate, or chocolate puds and fudge brownies for a sweet ending.
:: Best buy A sporting measure... Just in time for London 2012, Hendrick's Gin Fit for Tea (£25.29, 70cl bottle with teacup and saucer gift pack, Sainsbury's) is a limited release celebrating the ingenious exercise machines invented by Dr Gustav Zander in the late 1800s. The quaint teacup is illustrated with some of Zander's successes, and there's a Hendrick's cocktail recipe book for summer cocktails to celebrate the Games.
:: Liquid news Fresh picks... Carlsberg UK has branched out to the apple orchard and launched a new cider brand. Somersby Cider (£3, 4.5% abv, 4 x 440ml cans, Tesco, in store from July 15) hails from the heart of Herefordshire and is a crisp, refreshing cider with no artificial sweeteners or flavours.