Follow These Tips for Easy Entertaining with Wine and Cheese
Wine and Cheese is easy entertaining at its best! Simple, elegant and always a crowd pleaser. It’s all you need to get friends together and have a good time. It’s such a classic pairing that “Wine and Cheese” even have their own holiday! July 25th is “National Wine and Cheese Day.” Although it’s common practice to serve wine with cheese and cheese with wine, actually pairing wines and cheeses so the flavor and texture nuances, the sweet and acidic complexities complement rather than detract from each other is not as easy as it may seem.
If you’re wondering how to choose the right cheeses, what is the perfect accompaniment, what kinds of wines to buy, how to serve and what wines to pair with which cheeses at your next party, then read on. I’m sharing my Easy Entertaining tips to put together an epic cheese board, jazz it up with some fun accompaniments, tips on serving wine and fun wine and cheese pairings.>
Try new combinations. Explore new wine and cheese regions. Be a little adventurous and step out of your comfort zone. Skip the cheddar if that’s always your go to. Or you can try a flavored or aged cheddar instead. Get together with friends and try different combinations and compare notes. This is truly an opportunity to celebrate and go #MakeSomedayHappen
5 Tips to Create An Epic Cheese Board
Choosing cheeses at your favorite store can be a daunting task. Follow these 7 tips to create an epic cheese board and whenever possible, speak to the cheese department manager or cheesemonger. They are a wealth of information.
- Choose 3 – 6 different cheeses. Include different cheeses of the same type or different cheeses along a variety of tastes, textures, styles and place of origin.
- Textures: Soft, semi-soft, creamy, soft rind, hard, blue, flavored cheeses and marinated cheeses.
- Fresh vs. Aged cheeses will have different flavor and texture.
- Choose from various types of milks such as cow, goat, and sheep.
- Look for unique places of origin and styles to give your board an interesting appeal. It’s a conversation starter.
- Don’t cut into cubes as it looks store-bought. Instead display the large block of each cheese and let guests help themselves by serving with a small knife for hard cheeses and small spreader for soft. If cutting, only cut some pieces and leave the rest in the block.
- The easiest way to display your cheeses is on a cutting board, a slate tile or marble slab.
- Label your cheeses so everyone knows what they are eating.
- Don’t forget garnishes and accompaniments. Have fun with your picks.
7 Accompaniments to Jazz Up Your Cheese Board
The accompaniments for your cheese board are just as important as the cheeses you buy. Here’s 7 types of garnishes and accompaniments you should consider to jazz up your cheese board.
- Fresh and Dried Fruits: There’s a reason fruit and cheese is such a popular combo. Select a variety of fresh and dried fruits for contrasting colors and flavors. Grapes are the most common. Berries add beautiful color and can be quite delicious especially with soft cheeses like brie. Dried fruits like figs, dates, cranberries, apricots, and raisins on the vine are just as interesting and pair beautifully with goat cheese, brie and blue cheese.
- Raw honey, or a honey comb if you can get it, adds a touch of sweetness to aged cheeses.
- Gourmet chutneys, jams and fruit preserves also make a great topping.
- Nuts like Marcona almonds, pistachios and candied pecans are favorites.
- Olives are best served in a separate side dish. The salty brined component contrasts the creaminess of the cheese.
- Crackers and crusty bread are a must. Choose an assortment of water crackers, wafers, wheat crackers and fresh baguette.
- Crisp veggies like celery, carrots and cucumber provide a healthy alternative to crackers for brie and soft spreadable cheeses.
9 Tips to Serving Wine at A Party
- Always offer a white and a red wine. Sparkling wine is a welcome third option and perfect to make any gathering a celebration!
- White and red blends offer the most versatility for food pairings and appeal to most guests. Look for a white blend of Chardonnay,
- Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon have been popular for decades because they are great for serving with food, however, for more casual entertaining I prefer versatile varietals that drink well on their own such as Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Syrah.
- Serving wines at the proper temperature is crucial. Chill white and sparkling wines for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator. Place red wines in the refrigerator to cool down a bit if they were not in a wine cooler. Most often red wines are served too warm as “room temperature” especially in Florida, is not the desired 65 degrees. White wines should be served at 50 degrees and sparkling wines at 40-45 degrees.
- Serve wine to the widest part of the glass, about 3/4 full. You want to leave room in the glass to swirl.
- Luscious white wines and fruity reds are great to pair with cheese. See more pairings tips below.
- Always provide mineral water and non-alcoholic beverages.
- A rule of thumb to determine how much wine to have on hand, is one bottle per two non-drivers. One 750ml bottle serves five glasses.
- Price does not always determine quality. Don’t be afraid to explore and ask the wine buyer at your local store for recommendations.
11 Tips to Pair Wine and Cheese
- The first guideline of wine and cheese pairing you want to consider is choosing wines and cheeses from the same region. Rioja and Manchego from Spain for example, make a perfect pair. Then, don’t be afraid to explore and mix regions.
- Bubbles pair well with everything! Prosecco goes nicely with salty aged cheeses like Parmesan and Pecorino (they’re also both from Italy – see #1) Dry, traditional-method sparkling wines like brut Champagne pair well with bloomy cheeses like ultra creamy Triple Cream Brie and luscious Robiola.
- Luxurious sweet wines like Sauternes pair beautifully with rich and creamy fondue.
- Cabernet Sauvignon is a tough wine to pair with cheese. Aged cheeses like aged gouda and cheddar work best to stand up to the tannic, full-bodied wines.
- Fruit forward and nutty Chardonnay goes well with Gruyere, especially when melted.
- The sweetness and heavy body of fortified wines like port and the sweet white dessert wines like late harvest Riesling, pair well with pungent, stinky cheeses like bleu cheese, Gorgonzola, Cambozola, Roquerfort.
- Creamy Ricotta likes tangy wines like Pinot Grigio and dry Riesling.
- Dry fruity unoaked reds like Pinot Noir add complexity without overpowering soft light cheeses like Brie and Camembert.
- Mozzarella and Pinot Grigio are the Pizza and Wine classic combo!
- Feta is a tough one to pair. Choose off-dry wines like Gewürztraminer or Riesling to match up to the saltiness of feta.
- Tart, crisp Sauvignon Blanc pairs beautifully with tangy Goat Cheese. The Sancerre region of France is known for producing both perfectly.
My last tip to learn more about wine and cheese pairing is to find local events in your area where you can learn from the experts. In Orlando, one of my most trusted sources (and good friends) are Tonda Corrente of La Femme du Fromage, Orlando’s premier cheese shop at East End Market, Jill Ramsier of Quantum Leap Winery, Florida’s only sustainable winery, and Lisa Wilk of Orlando Uncorked and Taste Cook Sip, wine educator and expert pairing guru. Together, these three ladies form The Tasty Trio and host regular sold-out “Wine, Cheese and Chocolate” pairing events throughout the year.
On August 30th, the Tasty Trio will be the special guests at Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida Chef’s Night. An event where not only will they prepare and present a fantastic multi-course dinner featuring wine, cheese and chocolate in every course but all proceeds benefit the Darden Foundation Community Kitchen’s Culinary Training Program. Get more information and tickets here.
I hope these tips will help take some of the stress out of party planning and inspire you to “Make Someday Happen” and invite friends over to celebrate everyday! When in doubt, choose what you like, pick the wine by the pretty label and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. This too can make for a great tasting experience as you discuss what you liked and didn’t like, what you will repeat in the future and what you will definitely stay away from. We’ve all had those “meh” and “not so great” pairing moments. It’s all ok. Life is not perfect but moments shared with friends definitely are.