Summer’s here – fire up the barbie

PUBLISHED: 12:59 15 June 2009 | UPDATED: 15:17 20 February 2013

Fire up the BBQ

Fire up the BBQ

'Bring on those hazy, crazy, lazy days of summer,those days of pretzel and soda and beer.'

'Bring on those hazy, crazy, lazy days of summer,those days of pretzel and soda and beer.'

As soon as I hear Nat 'King' Cole singing those words on my radio I get my old barbie out from under her cover. A quick wash and brush up and she is soon ready for action. Over the next few months she will be all fired-up cooking anything and everything from sirloin steaks to pork chops, sausages, 'veggie burgers', and lamb or chicken kebabs, even fresh sardines or salmon wrapped in aluminium foil.

Barbecues are great fun, but they are not the occasion for drinking fine wines. They are a splendid opportunity of quaffing cool fruity reds, well-rounded whites and succulent rosés. Nowadays we thankfully have loads of bottles with those handy screw tops that don't need cumbersome corkscrews and can have their tops quickly put back so that when they get knocked over - and they always will - they won't spill! Better still look out for those splendid three litre packs of wine bags in boxes, complete with taps. Last year I remember enjoying some Australian wines in one litre Tetra packs, just like milk!

What to drink while the food cooks? Cans of beer are okay but how about jugs of chilled Bellinis? Take a bottle of chilled Italian Prosecco (£6.99 at Waitrose) and a £1.99 litre bottle of their peach juice, pour the two into a chilled jug with some slices of fresh peaches and you have quite the smartest of all summer drinks. This wonderful appetiser was created some 50 years ago at Harry's Bar in Venice and named after Giovanni Belinni (1440 - 1515) who almost single-handedly made the city of canals a centre of the arts to rival Florence.

There is certainly no shortage of interesting barbecue wines on our supermarket shelves. This summer, however, they will cost more thanks to a combination of Mr Darling's increase in excise duty and the catastrophic fall of sterling against the Euro. But do remember that you invariably get what you pay for, and so generally wines under £4 can often leave a lot to be desired. After all who wants to swallow over tannic reds that lack fruit, or battery acid dry whites, just because they were cheap.

What's in store?

I have been trawling the wine shelves of three stores that consistently offer affordable quality. From Aldi, almost the new lad on the block who have recently been winning much critical acclaim for their wines, I chose Bordeaux Château Selection white (£3.99) A creamy Sémillon and grassy Sauvignon Blanc with a hint of honey; from New South Wales and again at £3.69 a red, juicy Australian Shiraz - Bushland Shiraz Reserve; my rosé is a Bobal from sunny Spain, dry and with masses of ripe fruit - Viña Decana Rosada - for only £3.29.

Marks & Spencer not only lead the way with delicious ready-made dishes (far too often the soft option for a hastily arranged barbie) but have some excellent wines to accompany them. From the Côtes de Roussillon, close to the Spanish boarder, they have a 2007 Old Vine Grenache that is surprisingly light and fruity, from the Argentine's Elequi Valley they have unearthed a rarity, a £5.49 dry aromatic white made from the PX (Pedro Ximinez) that is air-dried in Spain to make sweet Sherry. The rosé is Burra Brook 2007, a just off-dry pink from South East Australia from the much moustachioed cricket mad Geoff Merrill (£4.49).

When it comes to combining quantity and quality you have to hand it to Waitrose, they are without a doubt the finest wine supermarket of all. They have an entertaining Char-en-Oeuf rosé from the d'Oc (£4.99) with a contribution from each bottle sold going to the RSPCA. I have long been a fan of Torres's aromatic off-dry white Viña Esmerelda made from Muscat with some Gewurztraminer (£6.99). Everyone loves a Merlot and the Italian Merlot del Veneto is a medium-bodied organic wine with vibrant red fruit (£5.79).

Finally a word about glasses. If you drop them they don't bounce, so leave them indoors and get some plastic ones. Few things are more dangerous than shards of broken glass. If they fall between the decking then there is the risk that some poor animal will do itself a mischief. There are some excellent rigid plastic wine glasses and even champagne flutes about, so play safe and don't take risks.

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