Meanwhile the new barbecue sits in the garden, still shrouded in its new cover and apart from a quick five-minute test to make sure the burners were working, still hasn’t been put to use. And that is typical of our summers. It is impossible to know when the good weather will arrive so we need to be prepared with food in the freezer and wine in the rack so that when a suitable barbecue day finally dawns, the main business of the day is ringing round friends and making salads.
With most of this year’s supermarket tastings under my belt, here are my suggestions for a selection of wines to choose to accompany the smoky, spicy tastes of meats straight off the barbecue. To keep costs under control all the wines are under £8.
Every barbecue needs a palate-cleansing, fresh tasting wine to start the proceedings and Ondine Sauvignon Blanc 2014, from the cool Darling area of South Africa works well (Majestic £5.99 until June 29 on multi-buy, £6.74 on multi-buy from June 30). Packed with clean lemon and pineapple flavours, it can accompany a skewer of prawns or a foil-wrapped barbecued salmon.
If you have tuned your palate into New Zealand Sauvignon then Asda’s Marlborough Sun Sauvignon Blanc 2014 at a great value £6.47 is a good choice for its bright, lively flavours. The label, purporting to be the front page of a newspaper is also fun, although perhaps should not be shown if granny is visiting.
To accompany the food, look at the balance of flavours in the sauces and marinades as well as salsas and salads. Honey is a key ingredient in many marinades and if the spice is not too lively in the mix, head for the gentle, muted apricot flavours of the Albariño grape from Galicia in north-west Spain. Albariño is now becoming very fashionable, not just for its soft, rounded, food-friendly flavours, but also because it often hovers around a moderate 12% alcohol which is more sunshine friendly than higher alcohol levels. Asda has Alba Signature Albariño 2013 (£6) with good levels of light fruit and a clean citrusy finish or you can trade up to the spice-dusted apricot flavours in Bienbebido Pulpo Albariño 2014, at Majestic, down from £9.99 to £7.49 on multi-buy until August 3.
Rosé is essential as soon as the sun shines and it is particularly good for barbecues since its deeper flavours can balance bigger tastes on the plate. I was delighted by the overall quality of a range of rosé wines at Sainsbury’s, with Taste the Difference Côtes de Provence Rosé 2014 (down from £8 to £7 until June 30) standing out for its gentle, raspberry fruit and crisp, clean style. It comes in the traditional curvy bottle of the region, which you may have difficulty getting in the fridge, but it looks and tastes so good it is worth getting a big gardening bucket and filling it with ice so you can keep the bottles cool in the garden.
Also good from Sainsbury’s is Winemakers’ Selection Côtes du Rhône Rosé 2014 (£6) for its deeper colour and flavour. Made from 90% Grenache, it has the aroma of a chilled summer pudding, ripe fruit and a crisp, fresh-tasting finish and enough weight to take on a veggie or chicken kebab.
From Marks & Spencer, the Grenache-dominated ripe, strawberry fruit of Reserve de la Saurine Rosé 2014 (£7) is another wine that scores well for lively, fresh-tasting flavours.
No barbecue would be complete without a glass of red wine, but you need to choose with care to avoid those big overblown flavours that could taste unbalanced in sunshine.
A light red makes a good start and Asda’s Bradshaw Pinot Noir 2014 (£4) from Romania is not to be missed. It is unclear from Asda whether this price is permanent or just an offer, so head off to your nearest big Asda store and stock up while you can. With light, simple, easy quaffing cherry and strawberry fruit, it can be chilled and served rather like a young Beaujolais.
Once the meat starts coming off the barbie then bigger flavours are needed and Argentinian Malbec seems to be made for the job. Sainsbury’s scores well with its Winemakers’ Selection Malbec 2014 (£5) which packs layers of dark berried fruit with soft tannins that can easily cope with sausages and burgers.
With a touch more depth and robust fruit, Tesco Finest Argentinian Malbec 2014 (£7.99) has the power to partner big flavours and its fairly moderate 13.5% alcohol means that the flavours won’t taste soupy in the glass.
Majestic currently has 25 per cent off Argentine wines when you buy two or more bottles. Head for Portillo Malbec 2014 from Bodegas Salentein (down from £9.99 to £7.49) for lavish, dark fruits and a serious depth of flavour.
While Malbec always goes down well at a barbecue, if there is spice in those sausages pour a wine that has some kick to balance the food. Sainsbury’s Old Vine Garnacha 2013 (£6) is one of the cheeriest red wines out there. Lively and bursting with savoury, spiced blackcurrant and cherry fruit, it will sit alongside a chilli-spiced sausage without clashing.
When serving wines at a barbecue, always try to keep the wine cooler than the food. Fill a large bucket with ice and water to keep the whites and rosés chilled, and dunk the reds in there occasionally too so they don’t overheat in the sun.