One of Italy’s great festive traditions, this sweet, spiced fruit bread has become a firm favourite in Britain, too. The staff of Country Life, under the watchful eye of Megan Jenkins, nobly volunteered to taste some of the many versions available in the shops

Winner
Luigi’s Classic Panettone, £15.95 for 1kg,

Our firm favourite. Hand-wrapped infestive colours to look like a present, it has a light and buttery texture and is loaded with plump, spiced raisins and candied fruit. Luigi’s (020-3051 9352; www.luigismailorder.com)

Second
Cappelliere Classic Magnum Panettone by Loison, £70 for 3kg

Beautifully presented in a vintage-style hatbox, and large enough to feed the 5,000 at a Christmas tea party, this is as delicious as it looks. It’s available in other sizes, too. Caffé Vero (0115-959 6450; www.caffevero.co.uk)

Third
Panettone tradizionale, 16.95 for 1kg

With its crunchy hazelnut icing, this is the undisputed star of Carluccio’s Christmas range. Made by the company’s Italian bakers, this authentic panettone is beautifully presented in a cheerfully festive red-and-gold box. Carluccio’s (www.carluccios.com)

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Runners-up

Chiostro Di Saronno Panettone by Lazzaroni, £15 for 1kg

In a jolly tin-perfect for children’s toys or festive baking as its second use -this is a well-balanced panettone, with aromas of vanilla and citrus fruits, baked in a characteristic drum shape. John Lewis
(0845 604 9049; www.johnlewis.com)

Nudo Panettone, £15 for 1kg

One of the most eyecatching examples, this is, unusually, made with olive oil from the Nudo olive grove in Le Marche. Nudo (020-7617 7235; www.nudo-italia.com

Arden & Amici Drunken Panettone, £11.99 for 750g

Sophisticated packaging -not to mention the alcoholic infusion of Moscato syrup- would make this an ideal present for a man. Ocado (0845 399 1122; www.ocado.com)

Panettone, Divertimenti, £18.50 for 1kg

In a Dickensian style tin, this panettone hasan air of authenticity about it. However, its taste doesn’t quite match up to its design. (0870 129 5026; www.divertimenti.co.uk)

Harrods Traditional Panettone, £19.95 for 1kg

A Christmas explosion for those with flamboyant taste. Harrods Own Label (0845 605 1234; www.harrods.com)

Gran Milanese Panetonne, £15 for 1kg,

A good recipe that’s packaged in shiny gold paper and tied up with a big red bow-an easy-to-find, affordable option. Marks & Spencer (0845 302 1234)

Dessert Wine Panettone, £19.99 for 700g

Known as Il Panbriacone (‘the drunken cake’), this panettone is steeped in a dessert wine that really makes it live up to its name. Lakeland (01539 488100; www.lakeland.co.uk)

Valentina Panettone Classico, £11.95 for 750g

In stylish Silver and bluewrapping, Valentina’s trademark panettone won two Gold Stars from the Great Taste Awards in 2012. It uses yeast that’s been preserved and passed down through three generations. Valentina Fine Foods (020-8877 9906; www.valentinafinefoods.com)

Vecchio Forno Tin Panettone, £12.95 for 1kg, Valentina Fine Foods

The jolly images of Father Christmas that adorn the tin that this panettone comes in will enchant children, as well as nostalgic adults.
Valentina Fine Foods (as aboveHarvey Nichols (0845 604 1888; www.harveynichols.com)

Barocco Panettone al Fico by Loison, £19.50 for 1kg

The elegant Baroque design of its packaging makes this the most beautiful panettone we tasted. Its rich, spicy fig flavour works well and feels very festive. Caffé Vero (as above)

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