Picnic & wine

The History of the Picnic

Okay, it hasn’t been the warmest summer on record, but 23 degrees and hazy sunshine, rather than 35 degrees and burning rays is of course a much more agreeable weather profile to enjoy a perfect picnic, a quintessential outdoor summer social activity, has a rich history that spans centuries and various cultures. Here, we delve into the origins and evolution of the picnic, exploring how it became the beloved pastime it is today.

Origins in medieval Europe

The concept of the picnic can be traced back to medieval Europe, where outdoor feasts were held as part of hunting gatherings. Nobility and royalty would embark on elaborate hunting expeditions, often culminating in lavish outdoor banquets. These feasts included a variety of meats, bread, fruits, and wine, enjoyed in a scenic outdoor setting​.

The French influence

The term "picnic” IN FACT itself derives from the French word "pique-nique," which emerged in the late 17th century. "Pique" means to pick or peck, and "nique" was a slang term for a thing of little importance. This term referred to a social event where everyone contributed by bringing a share of food, often enjoyed outdoors. The popularity of picnics in France grew during the 18th century, particularly among the aristocracy, who enjoyed informal outdoor meals, to relax and socialize .

Picnics in England

Picnicking became a fashionable pastime in England in the 19th century, influenced by French customs. The British upper classes embraced the idea, often organizing elaborate picnics that included servants, fine china, and an extensive array of food and drinks. The popularity of picnics grew with the rise of the Romantic movement, which emphasized the beauty of nature and the pleasures of rural life.

The American Picnic

In the United States, picnics became popular in the 19th century as well. They were often associated with patriotic celebrations, community events, and social gatherings. The American picnic was typically more casual than its European counterparts, reflecting the country's democratic spirit. It often featured simple, homemade foods like sandwiches, fried chicken, pies, and lemonade, beer, and of course, red wine, ideally a nice right bank merlot, perhaps with a bit of age, and why not, indeed, a lovely aged Canon Cahigneau.

Modern Picnicking

Today, picnics are enjoyed by people worldwide, cutting across all social classes. They can range from simple affairs with a few sandwiches and a blanket to more elaborate setups with gourmet food and portable furniture. The rise of urban parks, nature reserves, and public beaches has provided ample opportunities for picnicking, making it a versatile and inclusive activity .

Picnics have also adapted to contemporary lifestyles, incorporating various cuisines, dietary preferences, and even technological conveniences like portable coolers and wireless speakers. Despite these changes, the essence of the picnic remains the same: enjoying good food and company in the great outdoors.

Cultural significance

Throughout history, picnics have held cultural significance beyond mere recreation. They have been depicted in art and literature, symbolizing freedom, leisure, and a connection with nature. Famous works like Édouard Manet’s "Déjeuner sur l'herbe" and literature by Jane Austen, or Scott Fitzgerald often feature picnic scenes that capture the fabulous social dynamics and leisurely pursuits of their times.

Perfect red wine pairing for Picnics

Pairing the right red wine with your picnic can elevate the experience, complementing the flavors of your food and enhancing the overall enjoyment.

Things to Consider

  1. Food pairing: choose a wine that complements the flavors of your picnic foods. Light, fruity reds work well with lighter dishes, while fuller-bodied reds pair nicely with richer, more savory foods. Our Cuve 1a would be a perfect fit. 
  2. Temperature: red wines should be served slightly below room temperature, around 60-65°F (15-18°C). Consider using a wine cooler or insulated bag to maintain the ideal temperature.

Suggested Red Wines

  1. Pinot Noir: a versatile, light-bodied red with flavors of cherry, raspberry, and subtle earthy notes. It pairs well with a variety of picnic foods, including chicken, ham, and vegetable dishes.
  2. Beaujolais: made from the Gamay grape, Beaujolais is a light, fruity wine with flavors of red berries and low tannins. It’s perfect for lighter fare like salads, charcuterie, and cheese.
  3. Grenache: a medium-bodied red with flavors of strawberry, raspberry, and white pepper. Grenache pairs well with grilled meats, roasted vegetables, and hearty salads.
  4. Merlot: A smooth, medium-bodied wine with flavors of plum, black cherry, and chocolate. Merlot complements richer picnic foods like beef sandwiches, meat pies, and strong cheeses, perfect to match with your favorite vintage of Canon Chaigneau, or perhaps a Cuve 8a.
  5. Cabernet Franc: works wonderfully with creamy cheeses (brie, goats cheese), charcuterie (salami, slightly spicier sausages), chicken & grilled vegetables.

Tips for a successful picnic wine experience

  • Wine glasses: Bring sturdy, reusable plastic or stainless-steel wine glasses.
  • Cork removal: If your wine has a cork, bring a portable corkscrew.
  • Chill the wine: Use a wine cooler or insulated bag to keep your wine at the right temperature.


The history of the picnic reflects its enduring appeal as a social activity that brings people together to enjoy nature, food, and each other’s company. Pairing your picnic with the perfect red wine can enhance the experience, making it even more memorable. Whether you choose a light Pinot Noir or a bold Zinfandel, the key is to select a wine that complements your food and suits the casual, relaxed nature of a picnic.

From medieval hunting feasts to contemporary urban park gatherings, the picnic has evolved but retained its core appeal: the enjoyment of food, nature, and companionship. Its rich history reflects broader social and cultural trends, making it a fascinating subject that continues to charm people across the globe.

For more detailed insights into the history and evolution of picnics, you can explore resources from The Smithsonian MagazineNational Geographic, and Britannica.