Giles Luckett’s Christmas wine crackers!

Round & About


Our wine columnist raises a glass to top tipples for the big day

Hello!  Christmas is said to be the most wonderful time of the year and for wine lovers, I’d say that was definitely the case. It’s that time when you can pull a cork at 11am without people raising eyebrows (or organising an intervention!) and when everyday wines are replaced by fine ones. So, to give you some festive inspiration here are the six Christmas crackers I’ll be pulling out this year.

First up, a fizz.  I’m convinced it’s no coincidence that traditional Christmas breakfast fare perfectly partners sparkling wine. Whether you’re having smoked salmon or eggs Benedict, a glass of fizz is a must. This year I’ll be toasting my smoked salmon on toast with a glass of Balfour 1503 (Majestic £21.99). This English sparkler is delightfully fresh, with plenty of green apples and citrus fruit offset by a pinch of pepper and a twist of thyme before the creamy, yeasty finish.

Suitably restored after my daughter’s excited 5.30am alarm bellow, It’s time to cook. For this I need a sip and run wine that will pique my appetite and year after year I turn to Tio Pepe (£12 Amazon). Quite the most civilised sherry I know, with its arresting, Sauvignon-like crispness, generous pear and melon fruit and creamy hit of yeast, it’s the perfect aperitif and goes brilliantly with all types of canapé and Christmas nibbles.

“There’s no point putting wine with Christmas pudding.”

Giles Luckett

Prep done, it’s time to take a well-earned break and share a glass with the family. This calls for Champagne and I’ll be serving Adnams’ 2012 Vintage Champagne (Adnams £41.99). 2012 was a fantastic year in Champagne, and the extended bottle age this has received has imparted a lovely softness that makes it a real crowd-pleaser. From its inviting nose of dried apples, honey, and lemon to its broad, generous, weighty palate of red apples, melon, peaches and digestive biscuits, this is a class act.

The turkey’s resting (no idea why, it’s me that’s done all the work) so it’s time to open the wines for the main event. I like to have a white and a red on the table, the latter being perfect for brown meat lovers, and this year I’ll have the Organist Chardonnay 2022 (£26 Ocado) and the Miguel Torres Vigno Carignan (Waitrose £13.99). 

The Organist cleverly balances intense, bold, fruit tones of baked apple, peach, and grapefruit with a luscious, buttery vanilla imparted by the oak ageing. This allows it to balance the breast’s natural dryness while bringing out the flavour without overpowering it. The Vigno on the other hand is a dark, juicy wine whose ample blackberry and loganberry character cuts through leg and wing’s gaminess while its dried herb tones add another dimension to it.

And to finish. There’s no point putting wine with Christmas pudding. Trust me, I’ve tried everything from Sauternes to Madeira and all get lost like the one of the kid’s presents by Boxing Day. After the pud’s done, however, I’m going to settle myself down with a glass of the Ned Noble Sauvignon Blanc (Ocado £14). I tried this little sweetie earlier this year and I was hugely impressed.  Opulently rich with flavours of barley sugar, pineapple, caramel, and dried pears, it has a cleansing gooseberry and lime acidity that stops it being cloying. Try this with full-flavoured cheeses – if you can find the room!

Well, here’s to a merry Christmas and a fantastic 2024.

Cheers! Giles

Cult show Neighbours returns to TV

Liz Nicholls


Neighbours is returning to TV screens next year… Here’s why this is such good news for us all

Oh happy day!

The news we all needed in the middle of a bleak week… Neighbours is returning to our screens next year.

Yes indeed. Full disclosure: I am a Neighbours superfan, and I’ve been mourning the loss of the Ramsay Street psychodrama from our screens since the summer. When an old friend joked about how I was coping with Neighbours being no longer with us at a party in August, I actually burst into tears. This has been a very tough year for all of us, and IMO the world has been notably darker since the end credits of the star-studded finale.

But now, despite the doubters and the mockery, my loyalty has been rewarded. The love is real, as I have discovered from the campaign to #SaveNeighbours launched by the community of die-hard Neighbours fans I have commiserated with on various platforms across the world.

“Neighbours is a unique series with a powerful connection with its fans across the world,” agrees Jennifer Mullin, global CEO, Fremantle. “We cherish the show and all those who have been part of its incredible story over many decade. So we’re thrilled that we have found a new home with Amazon Freevee. Thanks to the innovative Amazon Freevee platform, many classic episodes will be available to fans, and Neighbours will go back into full production in Australia early next year, providing our fans with new episodes.”

Until its untimely, and frankly bewildering, culling earlier this year, Neighbours ran for more than three decades and nearly 9,000 episodes, launching the careers of many household names. The Australian show has screened in multiple countries during its reign, including the UK, airing on both BBC One and, most recently, Channel 5, since its launch in 1985.

Did you settle in to watch the finale in July? For LOLS or, like me, as a poignant act of love? The final episode, which brought Kylie Minogue, Guy Pearce, Jason Donovan, Margot Robbie and many more alumnae back to the street, was as confusing, mad and divisive as the Sopranos finale. With so many plot lines to weave together, old faces to introduce, loose ends to tie up, I wondered how they would do it… But the small flame of hope was nurtured because, after the plot seemed to point to a max exodus, everyone, including the OG Toadie (Ryan Maloney) decided to stay put on Ramsay Street. Surely, I thought, that meant the show would be saved, not cruelly axed? Surely we could now tune in to see how Terese had actually found real love at last, with Paul (Stefan Dennis – one of the finest actors of our generation?) And now we can!

“Everyone has their favourite Neighbours moment or storyline. What’s yours?”

Neighbours has always been the soap that keeps on giving. Forget the snobs: all of human life is in this show. You have love, loss, bonking and bants. Some phases of our lives might have involved one or even two sneaky episode in an otherwise drab day. To those who have mocked me, I always say: don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Everyone has their favourite Neighbours moment or storyline. What’s yours? Perhaps it’s Bouncer’s Dream. Perhaps it was Dee Bliss’s evil twin Andrea coming back to mess with Toadie’s mind (my personal fave). The murderous spin-off special The Island was more exciting than most films… Anyhoo, production is set to start early next year, with a world premiere in the second half of the year. Everybody needs good Neighbours!

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