questions of a sartorial, automotive, horologocial... you
get the picture...nature to
I realise that this is an
age-old question, but do you have any suggestions for wines
to serve on Christmas Day?
Although some may bemoan
the excesses of Christmas, we say the opposite - after all,
opening a bottle of particularly special wine usually feels
better if it is accompanied with some sort of special
occasion. And what better one than the Pagan festival of
excess that is the modern day Christmas?
So - on to the wine then. To start, we would suggest a good
vintage champagne -
Taittinger is our preference, but Krug and Dom Perignon
are also excellent if you wish to splash out a little more.
Ensure that your guests and you do not drink too much at
this stage - this is an aperitif, not some sort of post
rugby match drinking contest. A good champagne will also
match many lighter starters, without dominating proceedings
too much (you may at this stage wish that the same could be
said of some of your guests).
To accompany the main course, there can be only one type of
wine; forget New World imposters - Christmas is a time for
tradition, and that means Claret. Go for a decent Cru Classe
from the left bank, such as
and you shouldn't have too many problems. Just ensure that
it has spent sufficient years in the bottle not to choke
your guests with vicious tannins, and that it is properly
decanted before serving.
To accompany puddings we would suggest a Sauternes - D'Yquem
would be nice if you can run to it (and can invite us as
well!), but there are a number of decent sweet Bordeaux
wines that are worth looking out for - Chateau
Lafaurie-Peyraguey is one that springs instantly to mind.
We're going to stick with the traditional tone, and
recommend a Port to round the day off - Chuchill's 2000
Vintage Port would be a particularly good choice.
After all this, we would suggest multiple glasses of water, a
long sleep and several days away from work.
I'm considering purchasing a two seater sports car,
mainly for use on the weekends. As it will be a second car,
it does not need to be particularly practical, but I do not
want it to be unreliable. I have been looking at the Porsche
Boxster and the Honda S2000, but do you have any advice? My
budget is up to £30,000.
A fairly easy one, this, as your limitations are few
(although the reliability caveat counts out anything
Italian). You don't mention whether you would consider more
classic machinery, but, judging by the fact that you
mentioned the Boxster and S2000 as potential choices I will
assume that you are looking at new or fairly new cars.
I would discount the Honda, primarily on the basis that it
is too ordinary to be a weekend toy; it may have one of the
world's finest four cylinder engines under the bonnet, but
the looks and handling don't really impress as they should.
The Boxster, on the other hand, is a fine handling car, and,
in S form at least, has just enough power to be
entertaining. It is, however, somewhat ubiquitous, and has
looks that fail to impress.
996 911s are now available well within your price bracket,
but running costs tend to be fairly high, and, unless it is
a GT3, the image is slightly City boy made good.
Our advice would be to look for a low mileage Lotus Exige or
Exige S. These can be had well within your budget, handle
better than almost anything out there, and, because of their
light weight, will not require ownership of an oil producing
Gulf state to run.
The S model is the supercharged one, and has considerably
better in gear performance than the naturally aspirated car.
The downsides are higher initial purchase costs and a
complete lack of visibility through the rear window (it's
blocked by the intercooler). The plain Exige, with its
highly strung Toyota engine is more frenetic and requires
more concentration (and gear changes) to keep on the cam and
travelling quickly, but, in the right hands, is almost as
fast as its more powerful sibling. Both perform superbly on
Don't expect too much luxury inside, and be careful when
giving a lift to female, or indeed male colleagues, as the
narrowness of the car means that each gear change has the
possibility of inadvertent leg-touching and consequent
Most of the reliability issues that were the bane of Lotus
owners' lives in the past have, thankfully, been absent from
the Elise based cars, primarily due to the use of mass
produced engines from manufacturers such as Toyota. Watch
out for cars with bent chassis, or suspension parts, though,
and ensure that you conduct a thorough test drive of any car
you intend to buy. It will feel flimsy, as if it is about to
fall apart at the first bump, but don't worry - they all
feel like this, and you soon realise that the body structure
is actually extremely stiff.
Both Exiges are, of course, hard-tops, but the 111R
and Elise S offer similar performance in an open top form,
if that is your preference.