Wines and spirits
Single – malt whisky Head down to your nearest wine merchant and select a bottle that befits your host. You may even find he’ll crack it open on Christmas Eve and leave a tot for Father Christmas.
Champagne – Nothing marks a celebration quite like the flying of a Champagne cork. If you opt for this staple gift, make sure you get the best your budget will allow-and buy a magnum! Again, your nearest wine merchant should be able to help you out.
Port – You either love it or hate it, but there’s still something special about decanting the port after lunch ready for celebrations at supper. Goes especially well with the cheese further down the list.
Wine – A good bottle of red or white is rarely sniffed at. If it’s for your hosts, get more than one bottle and make them good ones. If they’re being given as a Christmas present, one bottle is fine, but, again, opt for the best you can.
Cheese – In my mind, a serious feast is capped by having cheese before (yes, before) pudding. Most major supermarkets have a decent cheese counter if you can’t get to a cheese-monger. Get a good selection of the classics Stilton or Stichelton, Cheddar, something soft-and chutney, quince jelly or damson cheese to go with it. Plus some biscuits.
Chocolates – Rather like Champagne, you need to make these special. Again, the supermarkets are pretty helpful nowadays, so head in that direction. A little something from Fortnum’s If you can make it to Fortnum & Mason, you’re sorted-the food hall is a sight for desperate eyes.
Elvas plums, sugared almonds, delicious jams and jellies by the shelfload-anything in the store’s packaging makes a wonderful present.
Foie gras – A real help to the hostess who has forgotten to get pre-dinner nibbles or a starter. If you’re giving this delicious treat, it’s fun to include a jar of onion marmalade and a baguette to complete the package.
Cashmere gloves and scarf are a safe bet. Choose a classic colour-pale blue or black are always popular.
Candles Serious candles – can be a serious present. Beeswax ones give off a beautiful scent and look different, but you can rarely go wrong with long dinner candles.
Vouchers Almost – all stores offer vouchers now, and you can make your own if you’ve no time to collect official ones. Ones for massages are always popular.
Hand cream Widely – available and always welcome in this weather. Go for a light scent.
Decorations for the Christmas tree
A really smart make-up bag
See booze section!
Or… A subscription to Country Life. Whether you go for the weekly or the monthly option, it’s still a present every time it arrives. Save up to 30% when you subscribe today. Visit www.magazinesdirect.com/offer2 or telephone 0844 848 0848 and quote code AHST.
Smoked salmon or pâté Inverawe (0844 847 5490; www.smokedsalmon.co.uk).
Ordnance Survey map of his area Fun for framing in the boot room or using for new walks. Local garages usually stock these.
Trumpers vouchers – For the best shave in town (020-7499 1850; www.trumpers.com).
iPad – If you’re prepared to throw money at the problem, you’ll be flavour of the month with one of these.
Radio with wi-fi Brilliant for travellers-they can pick up Radio 4 wherever they are in the world, £129.95 (0845 604 9049; www.johnlewis.com).
A good corkscrew A man can never have enough (see local wine merchant).