Picnicking at Cowdray Polo with Gusbourne

We have a wonderful tradition of pitch-side picnics at Cowdray. Ahead of your visits this season, delve into advice from our experts on hamper-essentials, the best bottles to bring – and the prime spot for picnicking.

There’s something wonderfully British about the picnic. It’s a concept which resonates with our weather-obsessed nation; with our perpetual squint-at-the-clouds sense of optimism. It speaks to long-held traditions (just picture the tense Box Hill scene in Jane Austen’s Emma) and reflects food-trends and fashions. Culturally and literally, it’s a moveable feast.

These days, we cherry-pick the best of picnicking’s grand heritage – such as lavish hampers – and combine them with our modern appreciation of seasonal, fresh, local food. “To me, the appeal of a British picnic is the fresh produce that is available in so many local areas,” says Cowdray’s Head Chef Ben Jupp. “Being able to take a little slice of home comfort with you as you enjoy the great outdoors is a timeless tonic for busy lives.”

Laura Rhys, Master Sommelier, Gusbourne’s Head of Wine Communication and devoted picnicker agrees wholeheartedly. “I love picnics. The spontaneity, the conviviality, the informality that comes from a meal enjoyed when you’re not sat around a table. Expectations are reset and the focus is on company, friendships, conversations and your beautiful surroundings.”

Here, Laura and Ben share their tips for a perfect Polo picnic.

Browse the Cowdray Farm Shop for seasonal favourites

“Absolute classics for me are our delicious home-made quiches and sausage rolls, fresh salad, charcuterie and cheeses straight from the farm shop deli,” says Ben. “One of our best sellers is the smoked trout and spring onion quiche. We source the smoked trout from Charlie’s: their trout are raised in the crystal-clear waters of Hampshire’s famous chalk rivers. I would also pop in something sweet to finish like our chocolate brownie bites which are light yet rich and indulgent.”

With the wine, it’s not a question of still or sparkling.

“At picnic – a really good picnic – you’ll want both still and sparkling,” says Laura. “Personally, I end up leaning towards white wine, like Gusbourne Chardonnay Guinevere, and rosé or a lighter red. Gusbourne Pinot Noir will work beautifully. In terms of wine style, look for wines that are lighter, juicier and fruitier.

“Alongside classic picnic dishes, like quiche, go for a sparkling such as our Brut Reserve: it’s a blend of the three classic Champagne grapes and is incredibly versatile. For something delicate, like smoked chalk-stream trout, opt for our elegant, mineral Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs.”

Keep everything cool, but not too cold.
“Whether you’re using a freezer-sleeve to keep your wine cold, or a lovely bottle carrier, make sure it’s not too cold when you serve it,” says Laura. “Over-chilled wine won’t have the same complexity of flavour, so just take it out for a few minutes before serving.” And, on hot days, Laura has another tip: “Pour small servings, and top up glasses more often. Wine is incredibly easy to enjoy in the sunshine, but you don’t want it to get warm in the glass. Keep your bottle cool, your servings petite and refresh glasses more frequently than you might when dining indoors,” she says.

Stylish glassware sets the tone
“For a special occasion picnic, a proper hamper – complete with glassware – looks the part,” says Laura. “If a hamper’s not an option, I would definitely invest in some thin stemless glassware. You’ll reduce the chance of the wine getting knocked over and vastly improve the experience of drinking it.” Ben recommends a trip to Cowdray Lifestyle to eye up the latest collections.

Spread out your blanket in the prime spot
“Cushions or a nice wool picnic blanket make for a much more comfortable afternoon,” says Laura. Once you’ve selected a blanket from Cowdray Lifestyle, Ben recommends you head for his favourite spot. “I particularly like sitting on the bank of Brooks Field at Ambersham,” he says.

Embrace the relaxed nature of a picnic

“We always aim to make our picnics as effortless as possible,” says Ben. “Your hampers will include all you need. Order online, select your hamper and collect it while on your way to the game for total ease.” Laura agrees completely. “Just relax and enjoy the moment. Picnics are not the time to worry about perfect pairings or wine etiquette. Just pour a glass of something easy-to-love, like our Brut Reserve. Then sit back, stretch out and enjoy the day.”

We’re delighted that Gusbourne is our English wine partner for the coming season. You’ll find their classic wines available at Cowdray Farm Shop, or as a delicious addition to your pre-ordered hamper, as well as at the dedicated pitch-side bar.

By Emily Miles at Gusbourne

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