Oh dear. The sun’s come out. Which means someone’s going to suggest a picnic…
The problem with the word picnic is that it raises unreasonable expectations – the first being the location. It conjures up a sylvan scene where, if Manet is anything to go by, people can enjoy their dejeuner sur l’herbe naked if they wish, without fear of interruption or, indeed, nettles.
There is a distinct absence of such picnic sites in real life. If you do find an isolated spot, the reason why no-one else is there will only become evident after you have spread out your repast; it may involve insects, imminent crop spraying, or an irate farmer demanding that you “Get ‘orf moy land!”
Then there is the food. Tell someone you’re having a packed lunch, and they’ll be happy with a sandwich. Tell them it’s a picnic, and suddenly we’re all into thoughts of wicker baskets, with contents so extensive that they need to be packed by both Mr Fortnum and Mr Mason. Unreasonable expectations again. This is Wind in the Willows territory, where the Water Rat’s basket contained “Cold-chicken-cold-tongue-cold-ham-cold-beef-pickled-gherkin-salad-french-rolls-cress-sandwiches-potted-meat-ginger-beer-lemonade…” But not, I see, any wine.
And of course, the wine is crucial, because at least it means that after a disappointing meal in a disappointing location, you can at least subside into a sun-warmed stupor – probably the highlight of the afternoon, before you wake an hour later painfully sunburnt, dehydrated and dying for a pee.
I was once told that gewurtztraminer, that unctous, lychee-fragranced yet spicy wine from Alsace, is “God’s picnic wine”. I have clung to this statement, particularly after once drinking the delicious Rolly Gassmann gewurtztraminer, which comes in at around £17 a bottle when you can find it.
But this is surely a bit expensive for something that’s probably going to be consumed out of a plastic beaker. and accompanied by notoriously horrible British picnic items like entire cold, hard-boiled eggs. So when I found this £5.99 Cono Sur gewurtztraminer from Chile, I thought that here might be the perfect solution. God’s picnic wine, only cheaper.
I overcame the immediate perversity of such a defiantly Germanic name coming from Chile. (I can somehow accept French terms, like merlot, coming from South America, but German just sounds wrong, like an SS wanted list…) And obviously, in order to replicate the appropriate circumstances, I removed the wine from the fridge some time earlier earlier in order to reach picnic temperature – tepid – and shook it around to simulate travel before opening.
Let there be no confusion between Cono Sur, a place, and connoisseur, a person. Because the latter would have no truck with such a shoddy wine as this. It is a pale ghost of the real thing. Its vaguely floral characteristics disappeared, as Mrs K complained, by the second mouthful – which is a bit of an issue for her, given that she usually only drinks two mouthfuls. Instead, acidity and alcohol sear through the balance of what should be an unctuous wine, and leave a crude afterburn in the throat like swallowing vinegar.
You could argue that such disillusionment goes along with abandoning the vision of wicker baskets on the riverbank, and settling instead for gnawing a hard-boiled egg in what is euphemistically described as a “picnic area”, where people let their children off their leads. But in that case, I would rather take a bottle of beer.
And I will save a good bottle of God’s picnic wine for the day I’m invited to God’s picnic.