Bring these wines on your picnic

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      This is the time of year when most of us are spending as much time as possible outdoors. Granted, many Vancouverites don’t have back yards, which is why our parks and beaches are loaded with folks enjoying the sunny weather. There are picnics happening all over the place, and you’re probably due for one soon, right?

      Now, it’s not legal to consume alcohol in city parks or on city beaches, but let’s just imagine hypothetically that it is permitted. From time to time, you might just want a little wine to go with your alfresco fare. What would make an ideal picnic wine this season, you might wonder.

      Consider the fact that picnics are often impromptu potlucks. You might bring sushi, a friend has a little potato or pasta salad, and someone else shows up with a few local cheeses and crusty baguette. You’d want a wine that can be a good match for a wide range of foods, but nothing too heavy or fussy.

      I brought a bottle of Bodegas Borsao 2013 Macabeo (Campo de Borja, Spain; $13.29, B.C. Liquor Stores) to a recent picnic and heartily recommend you do the same. The grape in question here is Macabeo, which is a lively and fruity white grape with good acidity that’s often used in Spanish sparkling wine, or cava, blends. The grape doesn’t generally lend itself to long-term aging, and young vines can produce wines that are fairly neutral. But when the vines get some good age to them—like 20 to 30 years in this case—you start to see a lot more character. On the nose, we have honeysuckle, pear, and apricot with a smidge of river rock, which leads to a juicy gulp of apple, star fruit, guava, and young pineapple. It’s all held together with a mere three months in French oak, giving the whole thing some nice weight. It’s a dynamic wine at quite an accessible price, and I’ve definitely become a fan.

      Even though it’s hot outside, you might be tucking into something heartier, such as pulled-pork sandwiches, charcuterie, sausages, or burgers. You might want a red that’s delicious and a pleasure to drink, but nothing too wimpy or light.

      First off, let me reiterate that reds are always best served with a small hint of a chill, so do keep any bottle of red with the cool stuff in your picnic basket. A red wine served warm only makes that alcohol stick out more and flavours become kinda harsh. Got it? Awesome.

      Now, crack open a slightly cool bottle of Domaine Gayda 2013 Three Winds Syrah (Pays d’Oc, France; $13.29, B.C. Liquor Stores). For years now, this has been one of the best values on B.C. Liquor Store shelves; it’s so impressive that I always approach a new vintage with trepidation, doubting that it can continue its amazingly consistent run. Well, my concerns were unfounded with the 2013 vintage, composed of Syrah from the limestone and sandstone soils of the Languedoc region. It drinks more like something (pricier) from the northern Rhône Valley. This definitely isn’t a fruit-forward, jammy Shiraz style of the variety. Nope, it’s all-out savoury, smoky, meaty, and spicy with black pepper, star anise, clove, and maybe a few blackberries bobbing around as well. Sometimes you want a compelling red that’s, well, kinda chuggable, too. This is it.

      While we’re chatting about outdoor eats and drinks, I’m over the moon that Vancouver’s popular weekly Food Cart Fest finally has a licensed area after three years of jumping through hoops. Full disclosure: I curate a rotating selection of local wines for the fest. Le Vieux Pin and LaStella are in residence this Sunday (July 26), followed by Tantalus Vineyards and C. C. Jentsch Cellars on August 2. When you head there this weekend, do try Le Vieux Pin’s 2014 Petit Blanc, a lively and tropical blend dominated by Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc that’ll keep you cool on a sunny day and come up a treat with Tacofino’s chicken karaage.

      What makes me happiest about this is that finally having a civilized cocktail, wine, and beer component to events like Food Cart Fest is yet another sign that our little city is growing up.

      Now, if we could only have some of the good stuff at a picnic in the park…