Dopey Buckfast and fags gift-pack

With only 81 days

until Christmas, a branch of Haddows in Glasgow has taken the hard slog out of the festive season by offering a Buckfast gift pack. The cellophane-wrapped selection, complete with red ribbon, includes a packet of cigarettes and Rizlas as well as the aforementioned tonic wine, with a £1 mark-up for packaging. One shop customer told the Sunday Mail: "It's a bit like buying an Easter egg - you pay extra because it looks attractive." Which is more than can be hoped for the hapless punter after a night "enjoying" that particular combination.

Heating for cold schnapps

We've heard complaints that vodka is getting cheaper - but so cheap you'd use it to heat your house? In a bizarre reversal of the anti-freeze-drinking trend that kills growing numbers of Russians every year, a Californian water heater expert is using vodka and solar power to heat his home. Larry Weingarten says his heating bills are virtually non-existent since he started using solar energy and a freezeproof mixture of water and vodka to heat his house (don't ask how, it's really technical). Suffice to say that if by some disaster the system goes wrong and leaves him in the lurch, Weingarten can simply open the radiator, add ice, a slice and a dash of lime, and he'll have the perfect cocktail to calm his nerves before phoning the gas board and begging them to take him back.

Hard rock sashay

Argentinian wine sales are on the rise and that gives its PR team the perfect opportunity to celebrate by namechecking as many AC/DC songs as they can in one press release.

Argentina - Back In Black, trumpets the document. A Whole Lotta Rosé is the next subheading, followed by Highway to Sell.

We'd love to be a

Fly On The Wall

in those crazy PR meetings. (Nobody's heard of that album - Ed.)

Peel us a Tempranillo

Spotted at the Asda press tasting: a non-vintage Tempranillo for a jaw-dropping £2.47. How is such a deal possible? Well, according to the tasting booklet the wine is "70 per cent Bobal and 30 per cent Tempranillo". On that basis it should be possible to produce Riesling from Thompson Seedless. That should be worth a couple of quid of anyone's money.

Here's the skinny on the dipping

Majestic staff are

known for going that extra mile in the name of customer service. They're well trained, knowledgeable and keen to help. That's why it should come as no surprise that some Majestic workers on an educational visit to sherry country were ready to go a few extra lengths to help fill the column inches on OLN's back page - by organising a late-night swimming race. Our congratulations go to the winner, from Birmingham, and well done to the runners-up.

Hall of fame

Cider isn't just the cure-all for the off-trade's bottom line this year -

more than a century ago it was being propounded in parliament as a health essential. Hereford MP Charles Cooke (1840-1911) recommended the daily consumption of six apples and a pint of cider before bed - and was so passionate about his local drink he was named the "member for cider". Cooke is just one of a number of brewers and distillers added to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography in an online update. Visit to find out more about Henry Boddington, whose quest for the perfect pale ale led him to build the biggest brewery in Manchester, the insanity and gold-digging marriages of the Meux family, and Bessie Williamson, the manager and owner of Islay's Laphroaig distillery.

... And make it snappy

Sherry producers are keen to promote the wine as a great food-match, but to many it's always been an aperitif. And what could be more of a tribute to its appetite-sharpening powers than the story of Kevin and Sandra, the alligator couple who, until recently, were living together in the grounds of Bodegas Domecq, home of Harveys Bristol Cream? One too many glasses of cream (served, naturally, with ice and a slice of orange) must have made Kevin so hungry he couldn't resist - and he ate Sandra. (Those who have had the pleasure of eating crocodile say it's like fish crossed with chicken, so alligator probably isn't the best food match for Harveys' flagship blend). Luckily Kevin wasn't left lonely for too long, and now has a new room-mate, Harvey. The odd thing is that, out of the two of them, Harvey (left) is the one who looks like he's eaten an alligator ... could Kevin be next on the menu?