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Wine Pairings in the Woods

Imagine kicking off your hiking boots and relaxing by the campfire with a smoky glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. In the past, wine has not been the first choice of outdoor enthusiasts. After all, heavy glass bottles don’t go well with a “carry in, carry out” policy, especially for backpackers. And if you’re a wine enthusiast, you may shudder at the thought of drinking boxed wine. However, throughout the years, boxed wines have improved to the point that even a true connoisseur can admit they have a time and a place. Check out our recommendations for wine pairings in the woods.

How to travel with wine in the woods
There are two common ways to bring wine to the woods: boxed wines and portable decanters. Each has its own benefits, and what works best for you will depend on your taste and the campfire meals you have planned.

The benefits of boxed wine in the woods
Boxed wines lend themselves well to camping because they’re lighter and more portable. They’re also more eco-friendly than their glass counterparts, reducing landfill waste by about 85 percent and leaving half the  carbon footprint.

The bags of most boxed wines are durable, so you can take them out for better transportation or to cool them in a nearby stream (as long as you keep the spout out to avoid contamination). Plus, the air-tight valve      reduces oxidation and will keep your wine fresher, longer. But if you’re worried about puncturing bags or don’t want to bring three liters of wine into the woods, many brands make 500ml tetra paks (about 2.5 glasses per box), which allow you to bring a little variety to your wine selection in the woods.

Perfectly portable camping decanters
Not sold on bringing boxed wine? For the true connoisseur, there are several ways you can bring your favorite varietal of vino with you in the woods:

      • The PlatyPreserve Wine Preservation System from Platypus is a durable, lightweight bag that holds one 800ml bottle of wine and protects it from UV rays and oxygen.

      • The Sea to Summit Pack Tap bag is designed to hold water, but its Mylar bladder is the same material used for wine bladders, so it won’t transfer flavor to your vino. The pack is available in two-, four-, six- and 10-liter bladders and can be rolled up when empty.

Pairing wine with food in the woods
These wine pairings will help you get the best flavor from your campfire meals. When you’re pairing wines, try to remember to choose light wines for light meals and match the country your varietal comes from with your recipe’s country of origin.

     • Salmon: Pair this dish with a Pinot Noir or Burgundy as their light, underlying structure will match the fish. If you’re looking for a brighter flavor, something crisp and fruity, a Pinot Gris would also pair well, especially if you’re using a buttery sauce. Dominio IV Dundee Hills makes a Pinot Noir that ranked highly in a 2011 New York Times taste test, but it’s pricier than other boxed wines, coming in at $90 for three liters.

     • Chicken Kabobs: A deliciously easy campfire meal, kabobs are full of color and flavor and go well with a Chardonnay or White Burgundy. Eco Vino packages their Chardonnay in a convenient pouch, so you can keep your wine cool if you’re camping near a stream or lake.

     • Fresh Trout: What’s better after a long day of hiking and fishing than relaxing around a campfire and making a meal of your day’s spoils? A versatile fish, trout pairs best with a Cabernet Franc but will also match well with a Pinot Noir or even a Merlot. Consider a From the Tank white or red wine pairing with this campfire meal. The New York Times sat this brand at number two on its list.

     • Chili or beef kabobs: A Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot is a great choice with beef as the tannins balance the full flavor of the fattier meat. When you have a spicier campfire meal, you want a wine that can keep up, so pair a Syrah with a peppery steak or Dutch Oven chili. The perfect wine pairing for this may be the Wineberry Domaine Le Garrigon Box, which was number one for the New York Times and is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan grapes.

     • Dehydrated Meals: They’re not as tasty as the gourmet campfire meals you can whip up at a campground or on a canoe trip, but their portability makes them practical for backpacking. Add some flavor to Italian meals with a Merlot or Chianti, or choose a Sauvignon Blanc for your lighter meals that aren’t cooked in a red sauce. Black Box makes an interesting Sauvignon Blanc that ranked sixth for the New York Times and also has a good Merlot and Malbec.

Just heading out for the day? Copa Di Vino makes premium, single-serving wine glasses that are portable and eco-friendly. These plastic glasses are easy way to pair wine with food, sip at sunset or enjoy around a bonfire with friends.

A final tip for wine in the woods
When you’re camping and bringing wine in the woods, it’s important to stay hydrated. Before you sit down to that relaxing glass of Cabernet and warm your hiking boots by the fire, be sure to fill up your hydration pack and replenish your fluids.