Harveys labelEveryone loves a glass of Harveys Bristol Cream Sherry. So stock up with a 1-litre bottle at Asda for only £7.00 (down from £10.06), £8.00 at Sainsbury’s (down from £10.30 until December 7th) and £8.00 at Ocado (down from £10.29). Within the traditional blue bottle you'll find flavours of raisin and brown sugar to meet all Christmas pie and trifle-soaking needs.

Harveys Amontillado Sherry

£6.00 Asda and £6.06 Sainsbury’s (down from £8.08 until December 7th)

Lighter and less sweet than cream sherry, amontillado sherry tastes more of Brazil and hazelnuts than raisins. So best enjoyed either on its own or used to soak lighter puddings and cakes - it works well enhancing the syrup of pineapple-upside down pudding.

Black Bottle Whisky

£14.99 The Green Welly Stop

I have now settled on Black Bottle whisky as the cake-soaking alcohol of choice but unfortunately it’s getting harder to find. The blend’s seven smoky Islay malt whiskies have been toned down with the addition of the more rounded flavours of everyday whisky and so it won’t overpower fruit cake as would a highly flavoured single-malt whisky.

Whyte and MackayWhyte and Mackay Special Blended Scotch Whisky

£11.27 Asda, £14.49 Sainsbury’s, £14.99 Waitrose (larger 1-litre bottle £18.89) and £19.99 (1-litre bottle) Ocado

It smells like nuts mixed with wood shavings and tastes rather like nutty butter. A simple and drinkable whisky that should please all palates this Christmas.

The Macallan Single Malt Fine Oak Ten Years Old

£24.59 Waitrose (down from £30.59)

Maturing the whisky in used American Bourbon whiskey and Spanish sherry barrels adds both acidic and toffee notes. I enjoy this single malt straight and without the addition of a splash of water. Scotsmen may shudder at this liberty but dilution weakens the flavour to an unenjoyable harshness.

trophyNot Wines of the Week but Wines of the Year this time. Of the many bottles opened and tasted this year 170 wines were rejected as not meeting the high standards of outstanding value and taste this blog strives for, while only 48 made it to the short list. From these the final ten most outstanding wines of 2010 were selected.

decanterPort is the wine match of choice for Christmas cake and other seasonal puddings and pastries. But all port tastes sweet, the fortifying dose of brandy sees to that. Adding neat, naturally sweet, alcohol to a normal Portuguese table wine lifts the alcohol level to around the 20 per cent level and increases the rich flavours of the resulting drink.

whiskey labelSherry, whisky and freshly squeezed orange juice are sampled this week as I get started stirring the Christmas mincemeat. Recipes for this booze-soaked Christmas preserve always say you should let it 'mature' for at least a week before you use it. But home-made pies (individual or one large ‘un) will still taste wonderful if the minced fruit and nut mixture is spooned straight into pastry cases as soon as the alcoholic moistness testing has ceased.