questions of a sartorial, automotive, horologocial... you
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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
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.
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?
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
197 Cup - a car that we have praised in
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
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.
I like the look of the Tag Heuer Monaco, but am worried
that it might be a bit ubiquitous. Does BG have any thoughts
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
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
We're also fans of the
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.
Can you recommend a good dessert wine that won't require a special arrangement with my bank manager to purchase?
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.
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
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.
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
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