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Ask BG


Please email questions of a sartorial, automotive, horologocial... you get the picture...nature to


A Special Wine


I'm not a fan of champagne, so would like to celebrate an imminent major birthday by splashing out on some decent red wine. The budget is ample, but not limitless - what would you recommend?

Frank, Cardiff


We're assuming that you intend to drink the wine on your birthday, rather than buying it on your birthday for further cellaring, so the following recommendations are all ready to drink now.

We're big fans of Chateau La Conseillante, and the 1982 vintage is, perhaps, the best it has ever produced. It's also drinking exceptionally well right now, with near perfect balance and structure, and a lovely rounded feel to the fruit. At around 250 a bottle, it is also considerably less expensive than the best equivalent left bank wines.

A slightly cheaper, and considerably younger option, is the 1999 Sassicaia from Tenuta San Guido. This has all of the elegance of the La Conseillante claret, but adds in a little Italian joie de vivre (or maybe that should be gioia di vivere).

Our final recommendation, and representing the New World, is Stag's Leap Cask 23. The 2000 vintage is drinking surprisingly well now, with a fine, sophisticated structure that is often lacking in wines from outside Europe. Despite its youth, the tannins are well balanced, and there is plenty of complexity present.




Hot Hatch


I've owned a Lotus Exige S for a while now, but think it is time to add a second, more practical car to the stable. The only requirements are decent MPG, seating for four and decent handling (I'm not expecting it to drive as well as the Lotus, but I don't want it to be a barge.) Oh, and I don't like German cars. Budget is around 10K, and I wouldn't want anything more than 5 years old. Any recommendations?

Jonathan, Cirencester


The Mk5 Golf GTi would be the default recommendation, but as you have an aversion to German cars, this makes things a little more difficult.

10K will just about get you into a year old Renault Clio 197 Cup - a car that we have praised in Future Classics for its depth of ability. It is as happy riding the kerbs on a trackday as it is blasting down a motorway, and it looks particularly good in white with the optional black wheels.

The only slight worry is build quality, although examples in your price range should come with a couple of years of manufacturer's warranty remaining, so this is only an issue if you intend to keep it for the long term.

A cheaper (and newer) option is to go for a Fiat Panda 100HP. It may have only just over half the power of the Clio, but it is a light little thing, and with judicious use of the full rev range, can be made to cover ground at a surprising pace. New examples can currently be found for less than 8K, even from Fiat dealers, and for that you get a high level of standard kit, and, of course, a full three year warranty.

The Fiat also benefits from a lower tax band and considerably lower insurance than the Clio, and returns around 43 mpg on the combined cycle, compared with 34 mpg for the 197.

So, the choice is yours - both are fine cars.




Classic Heuer


I like the look of the Tag Heuer Monaco, but am worried that it might be a bit ubiquitous. Does BG have any thoughts on this?


Simon, Guildford


The Tag Monaco is a handsome watch, but it suffers from being something of a pastiche of the original. Genuine McQueen Heuer Monacos are far more desirable, and are more likely to appreciate in value in the future, but they do tend to be rather expensive for what is not a particularly exotic movement.

Our advice would be to look at some of Heuer's other offerings from the 1970s. The Camaro is an unfairly ignored timepiece from the same era as the Monaco, and comes in various forms, one of which features the Valjoux 72 movement that was used in the contemporary Rolex Daytona. It also looks elegant on the wrist, and has much of the retro charm of the Monaco but with a more classic feel. Good examples can be bought for around a third of the price of a Heuer Monaco.

We're also fans of the Carrera chronograph, which, in its original form, is a nicely understated and timeless watch. It is less of an extrovert than either the Monaco or the Camaro, but in some circumstances this may add to its appeal.

Locating vintage Heuers can be a trying experience, but usually has a wide range of models, and should be your first port of call.





Sweet Wine


Can you recommend a good dessert wine that won't require a special arrangement with my bank manager to purchase?


Alex, Cardiff


The best dessert wines still generally come from France, and more specifically, Bordeaux. Unfortunately, limited supply, increasing global demand and a strong Euro have meant that prices of the best wines, such as Chateau D'Yquem remain obstinately high. Higher, in fact, than most of us can justify except for extremely special occasions.

Do not despair, though, or turn to some of the sickly new world offerings, for there are some genuinely great Sauternes available at more reasonable prices. Our pick would be the 2003 Chateau de Fargues, which exhibits a delightful blend of honey and orange, balanced by a sharp, tangy acidity. At around 20 for a half bottle, it's less than a tenth of the price of many of its more well known neighbours, yet it still has the power and elegance to hold its head high amongst such illustrious company.

A different, and maybe more exotic option, is to go for a quality ice wine. The Austrian winemaker, Alois Kracher, produces a superb sweet wine made from very late harvested, frozen chardonnay and welschriesling grapes. The 2001 is a particularly inspiring wine; a few bottles should be in every sweet wine enthusiast's cellar.





Four Door Performance


What four door performance car would you recommend? I have a budget of 50,000 and want something looks good and that can transport the family around, but is still fun enough not to leave me yearning to drive my Noble.


Tom, Manchester


For a long time the four door performance car market has been dominated by be-winged rally cars from Subaru and Mitsubishi at the low to middle end, and more upmarket M Series BMWs and AMG Mercedes at the mid to high end. Unfortunately, neither the lairy Japanese machines, nor the rather reserved and staid German cars offer much style wise.

Our advice is to go for a Maserati Quattroporte - no, not the 1980s one that looked like it was styled by a Cubist, but the 2003 onwards model, which features a 400+ bhp V8, great handling, courtesy of its 'front mid engine' setup, and the kind of elegant, flowing lines that make BMW designers weep.

Prices start at around the 25,000 mark, but we would recommend sticking to 2006 onwards cars, where the initial production bugs will have been (mostly - as this is an Italian car, after all) ironed out.

Cars of this age start at around 35,000, and for your money you get a 4.2 V8, which pushes the Quattroporte to sixty in around five and a half seconds, Skyhook adaptive damping, and a true Italian supercar interior, with enough leather to clothe an average Hell's Angels chapter.

There are downsides, of course: the ride is quite hard, fuel consumption is reminiscent of a supertanker, and the semi-automatic gearbox shifts with a ferociousness, even at low speeds, that makes you wonder whether it actually has a clutch at all.

All of this is forgotten, however, as soon as you find a clear, smooth stretch of tarmac, at which point the Quattroporte seems to transform from sensible saloon to supercar. Just remember to remove the family before you do this!



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