You then realise that the charcoal you had left over from last year has got damp and the lighting fluid has mysteriously evaporated, leaving an irritatingly mocking empty plastic bottle saying "Instant barbecue Success".
In time honoured tradition, we British usually huddle around in the smoke under our brollies, as a motley bunch of sausages and spare ribs quietly steam on the grill. As you sit down to tuck into the dubious looking array of articles on your plate, the host politely enquiries " Is it cooked as you like it?" Equally politely you nod your assent while secretly scraping away at the charred chops and incinerated sausages. But, just sometimes you're lucky. And when a barbecue works properly, there's nothing quite like it for a Summer's lunch or supper on the terrace.
Besides the food, the most important thing is the equipment. For me, you can't beat a good kettle barbecue with a lid, such as a Weber. There is nothing more effective in putting out the flames of your burning sausages than putting a lid on it - apart from calling the fire brigade. A good grill, some foil trays and stainless steel cooking implements are other essentials on my list. Meat, fish and poultry all cook wonderfully and gently in a kettle barbecue, having that delicious smoky flavour.
So once you've cooked your barbecue, what wine are you going to drink with it? To some extent ‘anything goes' although it is worth noting a few points that may produce a more enjoyable eating and drinking experience. It is the nature of barbecues that most of the flavours are big and definite, rather than mild and subtle. The wines chosen thus need to have big enough flavours and sufficient body to not be over -powered by the food.
One of my favourite Summer lunches is barbecued fresh sardines. Grilled whole in a foil tray over very hot charcoal, they are cooked in minutes, but have plenty of flavour. A good dry rose from Provence is a perfect accompaniment, or from Corsica if you can find one. A Riesling from Alsace, or a Pecorino from Italy are great matches for these little tasty fish, as also is an unoaked Chardonnay from Australia or the south of France. If you prefer to choose a Sauvignon Blanc, go for a less fruity example, thus probably from Europe rather than New Zealand or other parts of the New World.
Last Sunday, the sun was almost shining, so the barbecue was up and running. The lamb fillet marinated in olive oil, garlic and fresh oregano from the garden, was cooked pink. A great wine with this is Pinot Noir from New Zealand, or a light red Chinon from the Loire in France. Both these reds are lighter in tannins, so complement the lighter flavours of the lamb and are not too heavy for a warm Summer's day.
Richard Esling DipWSET