Fresh wines complement smoky flavours

Thanks to an unseasonably warm spring, this year's outdoor eating season kicked off early. Traditionally, however, most of us don't spark up the barbie until early June. Savvy retailers have just enough time to stock up for the alfresco rush that should hit their shops any day now.

Choose reds with relatively high acidity and lots of fruit, and try to keep alcohol levels around 14 per cent or under - anything higher will send you staggering to the nearest shady corner to sleep it off.

Look for fresh, juicy wines from cool-climate or high-altitude vineyards and consider chilling the bottles for half an hour or so before serving.

If you're marinating your meat in ­something hot and spicy, steer clear of tannic reds.

When it comes to whites, you want something with lots of flavour as this will allow the wine to stand up to the punchy, smoky flavours of barbecued food. Do bear in mind, though, that you also want the wine to have a fair degree of acidity and freshness , otherwise it may seem soupy and overly alcoholic. Barbecued food can work well with a bit of oak (but don't go overboard), and it's worth bearing in mind that a touch of residual sugar can work well with the chilli kick you often find in barbecue marinades.

Rosés are incredibly versatile outdoor wines: with their ripe fruit and crisp acidity, they can handle all kinds of outdoor meals, from pork ribs and chilli chicken to char-grilled salmon or prawns.

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