As the weather warms, we get really excited for the first afternoon spent at a picnic in the park or someone's backyard, sipping something refreshing and cool. But if you're going to drink all day, you have to plan accordingly: you'll want to bring a bottle of wine (or three) that isn't too overwhelming in flavor or high in alcohol. We asked our crew of sommeliers for their favorite picnic wines and their top wine choices for day drinking.
Here's what they had to say.
"The key words here are crisp, fresh, and (ideally) slightly sparkling; especially when the full heat of summer hits. My absolute favorite summer options are Txakolina wines from the Basque area in the north of Spain. Both whites and rosés are lean and bright, with mouthwatering acidity and tart fruit—lemon and lime for the whites, strawberry and white melon for the reds—a whiff of sea spray, and a slight spritzy effervescence. Favorite producers include Txomin Etxaniz and Ameztoi (their Rubentis rosé is my ultimate summer tipple)."—Mia Van De Water (North End Grill)
"I typically recommend anything with a screw cap. If you forget your wine key in your other picnic basket, no problem!"—Chris Nelson (Union Square Cafe)
"If you're going on a picnic with cured meats, olives, sandwiches and salads, dry sherry rules. A half bottle of Valdespino's Manzanilla Deliciosa or Hidalgo La Gitana is cheap and perfect for two to share. If you want bubbles, Lini's 910 Lambrusco kills it with salumi, and, Jané Ventura's Rosé Cava is a tasty expression of sparkling Garnatxa. Wines that offer more on the palate than the nose are best, since you're probably won't picnic with polished Riedel crystal to swirl and sniff out of. If it's delicious out of a paper cup, it's a good bet."—Jackson Rohrbaugh (Aragona)
"Let's start with the obvious: bubbles. Whether it's Champagne, Prosecco, or a sparkling wine made from Liguria's Lumassina or Etna's Nerello Mascalese. They are lively, fresh & invigorating, my friends and I jokingly call it 'coffee' it just has an ability to pick you up and make you happy. Besides bubbles, rosé wines are brilliant and sadly, often not taken seriously. I love the difference between Italian and French rosés. Italian rosés drink almost like light bodied reds, with beautiful structure and elegance. The characteristics of the grapes shines through. Two favorites are Bisson's Ciliegiolo from Liguria with its salty sea-side cherry-ness and Etna's Calabretta Rosato made from old vine nerello mascalese. Earthy, volcanic, and spicy, it is seriously seductive. Then, there's the French side of things: beautiful Provençal rosés can range from simple, easy and fresh and then whammo—some grab your brain out of nowhere, twisting it around something structured and incredibly complex like the wines of Chateau Pradeaux or Chateau Simone, two rosés that can seriously rival any classic red wine for complexity."—Ceri Smith (Biondivino and Tosca)
"The best daytime wine in my opinion is rosé. It has to be the most versatile wine to pair with food and very easy to drink all day long without getting tired of it. The key to being able to maintain all day is to find a wine that doesn't fatigue the palate but instead refreshes it. Some of my favorite wines in this camp are the rosés coming out of Corsica: Clos Canarelli, Abbatucci, and Antoine Arena. A few California wines made in a simiar style are Arnot-Roberts rosé, Sandhi, and Vallin."—Eric Railsback (Les Marchands)
"An emerging style of wine called 'vin de soif,' or 'wines for thirst,' usually refers to reds that are low-alcohol, low-tannin and are the wine equivalent of a session beer. These wines are designed to be delicious—for consuming ASAP. My personal favorite would have to be Ganevat's 'J'en Veux' from Jura, France. This wine is a mix of over 20 indigenous white AND red grapes from France's Alpine foothill region and can quench a thirst all year round. It is like a rosé with a little more girth, featuring great acid, and tremendous satiating qualities. One bottle per person minimum for a picnic."—Caleb Ganzer (Eleven Madison Park)
"I love a balanced German Riesling with a little bit of a sugary pop, ideally a Kabinett. It's wonderful on a hot day. The slight bit of sugar balances out the springy, zippy, mouth-watering acidity. I know a lot of people think that Riesling is too sweet, but I liken it to the perfect amount of sugar in your lemonade."—June Rodil (Qui)
"Just yesterday I brought a bottle of Y Rousseau's Russian River Colombard to Dolores Park. It's a perfect (white) picnic wine because the Colombard is fun to drink on its own—juicy, but complete—yet would pair with many things. Also, the wine still tastes good once it warms up a little. It has a screw cap, to boot! Champagne and other sparklers are also good picnic options because one generally doesn't need a wine key to open them. They also pair widely with things that might appear at a picnic: salads, fresh fruit, sandwiches, fried chicken... I'm also a fan of a salty fino Sherry for picnic times. Many come in smaller screw top bottles, which is convenient, and make great companions to cheese, seafood salads, and cured meats."—Lulu McAllister (Nopa)
"Picnic wines that are good for the park and the stoop are rosés, crisp whites from places by the sea, sparkling wine, and chilled young red Burgundy. These are fun, fresh, wines at an affordable price."—Josiah Baldivino (Michael Mina and Bay Grape)
"For picnic wines, I enjoy both red and white wines that can be chilled. Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley and Pinot Gris from Alsace are my go-to whites for outdoor dining. For reds, I really like Zweigelt from Austria. The smokey notes pair especially well with grilled food."—Alpana Singh (The Boarding House)
"Cheap, fresh, and easy. If it shows as well in a cup as it does in a glass, you're golden. Ameztoi Txakolina from the Basque region of Spain comes to mind. You can also drink vermouth with soda all day long and still look straight-faced for dinner."—Steven Grubbs (Empire State South and 5 & 10)
"Day drinking to calls for light and refreshing aromatic whites and rosé, wines that have us thinking of flowers and sunshine. I just picked up a killer 2012 Hans Wirsching Scheurebe that smells of elderflower. Super clean, racy, and the aromatics jump out of the glass. Perfect for the picnic basket. Andrew and Adam Mariani from Scribe also make a beautiful Sylvaner called Ode to Emil from their estate in Sonoma. At 11.2% ABV, you can drink this until the sun goes down and still walk a straight line down the path. Super dry with mouth puckering acidity, notes of chamomile, daisy, and finger lime will leave you reeling for more. I will drink rosé all year long, but most people prefer warmer, languid days for the pink juice. White Zinfandel is making a comeback in dry, delicious form. Broc Cellars White Zin from Sonoma is poolside yum yums all the way, especially at 11.5% ABV. Incredible ripe kiwi aroma moving directly into strawberry heaven. This wine's strong backbone of acidity lends itself to charcuterie, salads, or my favorite pairing right now, beef tartare with quail egg."—Jason Ruppert (Molina)