14 Expert-Approved Wine Pairings For Go-To Picnic Dishes

Eating outside is one of the benefits of warmer weather, and summer is the time to fine tune your outdoor dining habits. Choosing the right recipes for a perfect picnic is part of that mission, of course, but so is selecting a wine to pair with your go-to picnic dishes. After all, the right wine can lift any outdoor meal from ordinary to extravagant with minimal effort.

While al fresco dining isn't necessarily the moment to bring out a rare vintage and tote along your finest wine glasses, that doesn't mean you have to resort to a bottle of Two Buck Chuck or equivalent when planning a picnic menu. Whether your setup is a simple blanket on the grass, or you've scored a table at the park, any occasion is right for a good wine.

As a Certified Specialist of Wine and former winery employee on four continents, I've put together a selection of wine recommendations to complement your favorite picnic foods. If you're looking for the right celebratory bottle to pop open with your spread or something to pair with a selection of fine meats and cheeses, I've got you covered. Read on to discover the ideal bottle of wine to pair with your favorite go-to picnic dishes and complete the meal.

Chianti with charcuterie

You don't need to limit yourself to serving Italian red wines with a saucy pasta dish or cheesy pizza. While some bolder styles warrant heartier fare, a bottle of chianti pairs well with a versatile selection of foods. The variety of charcuterie, of course, makes it a must at any picnic with meat eaters. More than that, the dish's flavor-packed options — such as smoked ham, bresaola (air-dried beef), pancetta, prosciutto, and cured sausages like chorizo or salami — make it an excellent match for this wine.

Chianti wine is medium-bodied and produced primarily with the sangiovese grape. It has a moderately high acidity and notable tannins, which provide a palate cleanser for fatty meats. Whether you're serving charcuterie solo or with bread or crackers, the herbaceous and fruity notes of the wine marry well. Look for plum and cherry aromas, as well as an earthy leather note that highlights chianti's elegant rusticity. For a classic example from a reputable producer, try San Felice's Chianti Classico, which displays red fruits and violets on the palate, along with smooth tannins and a refreshing finish.

Pinot grigio with cheese board

Pinot grigio might seem like a basic white wine option — and some simpler, one-note versions certainly lack a bit of nuance. But the grape flourishes in the right place and can hold its own when paired with a wide range of foods. In fact, thanks to its freshness and light fruit flavors, pinot grigio makes a great pairing with a cheese board, cleansing your palate with every sip. It's especially suited to richer options, like an unctuous Brie or tangy goat cheese, though it pairs well with a salty cheddar or Parmesan, too. Reach for jellies and chutneys with pear, lemon, and apple notes to complement the wine's aromas.

Castelfeder winery produces an excellent bottle, Mont Mès, that is sure to match your cheesy spread. Additionally, if you're looking for something more interesting than the usual citrusy palate, try a pinot grigio from South Tyrol in Northern Italy. The region's Dolomite mountains offer prime terroir for the grape variety, allowing the wines to display more complexity and retain a refreshing acidity.

Pignoletto with chicken salad

Chicken salad is great for picnics, where you can eat it by the forkful, load it between two pieces of bread, or wrap it with a large lettuce leaf for a fresh bite. Not to mention, the recipe itself is incredibly versatile, whether you're going for a creamy curried chicken salad or something with a fruity element, like a cranberry and pecan chicken salad. Regardless of the specifics, sparkling wine is sure to wash it all down smoothly. But instead of the usual suspects, seek out a bottle of pignoletto for a novel twist on Italian bubbly.

Made with the grechetto grape in the northern region of Emilia Romagna, pignoletto is a delightful alternative boasting a range of aromas and a fresh finish. Although it's not as ubiquitous as prosecco stateside, you can track down a bottle by Fattoria Moretto. Crisp and dry, it features delicate notes of white flowers, citrus, and fresh herbs on the palate, making it a tasty match for a creamy chicken salad.

Torrontés with smoked salmon

Smoked salmon is a perfect accompaniment for cheese or charcuterie boards, salads, and bread. It infuses your meal with a salty note and keeps better than other types of seafood thanks to the smoking process. There are countless ways to serve it, as well, from a simple open-faced smoked salmon sandwich (with a layer of sour cream or cream cheese and fresh herbs) to classic salmon rillettes. You'll want a zesty, aromatic white wine that complements the salty smoked fish without getting lost behind the bold flavors, like a bottle of torrontés wine.

Torrontés is a group of white wine grapes primarily grown in the Salta province in Argentina. With its proximity to the Andes, the region's vineyards are found at high altitudes, producing fruit with developed aromas and a refreshing acidity. Brimming with fragrance yet usually vinified in a dry style, this wine's characteristics make for a delicious pairing with smoked salmon — no matter how you serve it.

Zuccardi is a third-generation, family-owned winery in Argentina and reliable source for the country's wines. Try a bottle of its Torrontés Serie A for a vibrant smoked salmon pairing brimming with citrus, peach, and floral notes.

Aligoté with pasta salad

Pasta salad gets a bad rap at times from people who've never made the dish themselves. But the carb-heavy side has far more potential than many sad deli options would have you believe. It's all about choosing the ingredients you want to include, so arm yourself with tips for making the ultimate pasta salad, and you might find a new mainstay of all your picnics — one that pairs well with a bright white wine like aligoté.

Whether you're going for a creamy and decadent pasta salad or a zingy variation, aligoté wine is a great match. Burgundy, France might be famous for its elite chardonnay and pinot noir wines, but aligoté is a lesser-known local variety that will suit your needs. Green apple notes with hints of white flowers and fresh herbs mingle with a backbone of acidity that serves as an excellent palate cleanser.

The wine works alongside a Southwest pasta salad with mayo and sour cream, or a Caesar chicken pasta salad with mayo, Parmesan, and the usual salad add-ins. Try a different take with a veggie antipasti Italian pasta salad featuring a tangy vinaigrette and add grilled chicken or chickpeas for extra protein. However you make your pasta salad, Albert Bichot winery is a prime producer, so consider picking up a bottle of Bourgogne Aligoté for a top-notch version.

Pecorino with focaccia and dip

Bread and dip is a winning combination — and when there's pillowy focaccia in the picture, it's that much better. You can bake an easy homemade focaccia loaf or stop by a bakery en route to your picnic destination. Regardless of the focaccia and dip combo, be sure to pair this comforting duo with another Italian star: pecorino wine (not the cheese).

This grape variety comes from central and coastal provinces in Italy and produces medium- to full-bodied white wines. Pecorino wine has an herbal, floral, and mineral character with nutty notes and a crisp acidity that goes well with any number of options. Rosemary and sea salt focaccia makes a good foundation for flavorful dips, as well as whatever cheese and charcuterie selection you bring along. Keep the dip basic with a garlic and herb-packed olive oil or opt for something more elevated like a whipped feta dip or simple creamy hummus recipe.

As for the wine, consider picking up a bottle of Pecorino Colline Pescaresi by Cirelli Wines to wash down the doughy focaccia. Brimming with stone fruit, citrus, almonds, and salinity, it will complement an assortment of dips, too.

Riesling with Vietnamese summer rolls

Depending on the menu, picnics might require a bit of prep work. Then again, while making Vietnamese summer rolls may take some extra effort, it's worth it once you're able to relax and enjoy the spread. This go-to picnic item isn't as hard to make as it looks, either, and you'll get to pack in all your favorite ingredients, like with these vibrant rainbow summer rolls (with mango, avocado, cucumber, bell peppers, carrots, fresh herbs, and more). On that note, when you're looking for a wine to pair with the crunchy rolls, a dry riesling will do the trick.

Now, most rieslings feature a zingy acidity with a fruit presence to round it out. Lime, white floral notes, and a mineral essence shine in every sip, offering an excellent accompaniment for the fresh vegetables in Vietnamese summer rolls and a palate cleanser for the typically rich dipping sauce (like peanut or almond). Eden Valley in Australia is a great place to seek out a bottle. Pewsey Vale Vineyard exclusively grows riesling grapes, so if you're looking for a stellar example of the regional style, you can't go wrong with one of the winery's products.

Sauvignon blanc with a mixed salad

A well-rounded mixed salad will add plenty of pizzazz to your picnic meal, particularly if you incorporate some easy hacks to make a better salad. Of course, fresh greens and vibrant veggies pair beautifully with an equally zesty wine. Since sauvignon blanc has an herbaceous character with notes of tropical fruit, it will elevate any salad — whether you've added seeds or nuts for some crunch, sprinkled on crumbled cheese, or tossed in some grilled chicken.

Be sure to chill the wine well and pack it in a cooler for optimal freshness. Also, unless your picnic destination is close and you're planning to dig in the moment you arrive, store any salad dressing separately and add it right before serving.

Additionally, there are countless sauvignon blanc producers to choose from in Marlborough, New Zealand — which has been recognized as a prime spot for this grape variety since the '80s – but a bottle of Tinpot Hut sauvignon blanc will win you over. Notes of fresh herbs, grapefruit, and melon mingle on the palate, balanced by a bold acidity that can stand up to any vinaigrette.

Vinho verde with Caprese salad

When tomatoes are in season, it's almost foolish to dress them up with elaborate ingredients. On that note, simplicity reigns in a classic Caprese salad with tomato slices, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, and olive oil. You can whip up a cherry tomato Caprese salad with mozzarella balls and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, then serve it with a crusty baguette or pack the ingredients between two slices of bread to make a tasty sandwich (just be sure to assemble it on-site to prevent the bread from getting soggy). As for a refreshing drink to pair with these simple ingredients, go with vinho verde wine.

There are plenty of light and easy vinho verde bottles available on the market, typically featuring varying amounts of six Portuguese grapes. The wines are fruity, with notes of citrus and flowers, as well as a gentle spritz on the palate. These flavors will complement the sweetness and acidity of the tomatoes and work well with the herbal characteristics of the basil in your picnic-ready Caprese salad.

For a reliable expression of the wines, pick up a bottle of Aveleda Fonte Branco, or elevate your tasting experience by trying a regional wine made with only one of the grape varieties. Anselmo Mendes is a prime producer, and its Pássaros Loureiro wine displays tropical fruits and a salty essence.

Rosé with potato salad

Picnics and rosé go hand in hand — so much so that you might forget the food part and just enjoy sitting in a park with a glass of chilled wine (avoid drinking alcohol on an empty stomach, though). Since rosé is a super versatile wine, it deserves to be paired with an assortment of dishes — like potato salad — to savor the combination.

Any well-planned picnic needs a potato salad, after all, and there are endless variations to try out for every taste. You could go heavy on the herbs with a creamy dill potato salad, amp up the protein and crunch with a classic Southern potato salad, or make it extra salty with a bacon and egg ranch recipe. Whether you go for a rich and luscious rendition or a tart one with a zingy vinaigrette, a crisp rosé from Southern France is an excellent match. The acidity makes for the perfect palate cleanser between bites and prevents the wine from being washed out by a vinegary sauce.

Although the pretty pink color might mislead you into thinking the wine is sweet, French rosé is more commonly dry. Guigal is an iconic producer in the Rhône Valley, and a bottle of its rosé is a fantastic choice for casual and serious wine drinkers. With notes of red fruit and citrus on the palate, this elegant wine will elevate your potato salad in no time.

Chablis with vegetable quiche

Vegetable quiche makes a chic addition to your picnic spread. It can be served cool or at room temperature once baked, making it a suitable option for an open-air picnic (though the custardy filling won't last forever on a warm day). Try a spring quiche recipe packed with greens like leeks, spinach, and arugula with goat cheese, or make a loaded vegetarian quiche with mushrooms, bell peppers, zucchini, and onion. Whether you opt for a store-bought pie crust or make your own, wash down the flaky dough and creamy filling with a crisp glass of chablis wine.

This style of chardonnay is made in Northern Burgundy and is sure to win over any self-reported chardonnay haters. Delightfully fresh with high acidity and chalky notes, these wines typically have citrus and apple aromas with a bone dry finish. Chill a bottle of chablis by Domaine du Colombier to pair with your vegetable quiche.

Prosecco with deviled eggs

Any celebratory picnic (or any picnic, really) is instantly elevated with bubbly wine like prosecco. Another fail-safe option for an al fresco meal is a plate of deviled eggs. Pair the two together for a successful duo that will please all your dining companions. Everyone should have an easy deviled egg recipe in their repertoire, but you don't have to stick to classic versions. Countless ingredients will seriously upgrade your deviled eggs, such as bacon, honey, olives, pesto, and avocado. Add crispy toppings to contrast the rich filling, and pair them with prosecco for an enjoyable match.

Make sure to cool the bottle sufficiently before heading out and bring a cooler with ice to keep it extra cold. Alternatively, invite a handful of people and you won't have to worry about the bottle having time to warm up. Sample a bottle of Corazza Prosecco made with the local glera grape, which offers a balance between sweet and dry notes and displays pear aromas on the palate.

Gewürztraminer with bean salad

Salads are an obvious winner when it comes to picnic food, because you can add your choice of ingredients with relatively low effort. Since a bean salad is packed with protein and fiber, it's a popular option to serve to vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. When serving a bean salad at the picnic, go with an aromatic white wine made with the gewürztraminer grape.

This wine gets its name from its heavily perfumed and spiced notes, which make it a total stand out in the glass. Notes of rose, lychee, ginger, orange blossom, and Turkish delight are often present, living up to its name. No matter how you customize your bean salad — with spice and color in a jalapeño-lime three bean salad or focused on one legume with a limey black bean couscous salad – gewürztraminer will mesh well.

Although the grape is most commonly grown in France and Italy, wineries around the world are producing it. Try a bottle from Gundlach Bundschu on the Sonoma Coast for a dry and spiced pairing.

Sparkling rosé with fruit salad

You can't forget to bring a fruit salad to your picnic to showcase the season's bounty. Chopped tropical fruits, berries, and fresh herbs are a timeless way to finish off a meal, after all. But just because the main course is over, it doesn't mean you have to miss out on a wine pairing. While some people stick to serving bubbles as an aperitif, who's to say you can't enjoy them as a digestif? Make it extra special by opting for a bottle of sparkling rosé.

As for options, crémant is a high-quality French sparkling wine made following the same method as Champagne but in different regions of the country with various grapes. Rosé crémant is a dazzling accompaniment for a fruit salad, with its berry aromas and crisp finish. Try a bottle of Crémant de Bourgogne by Henri Champliau, made primarily with pinot noir grapes. The pale pink hue hints at the wine's elegance and fine mousse, which is complemented with notes of red berries and flowers.