At this time of year, we like to get together with friends to celebrate the holidays. Planning food and wine can be really stressful. We’ve come up with a Cheese & Wine Planning Guide for you to help you out!
Planning the Cheeses
Depending on the number of Wines you plan to serve, prepare several cheeses of different styles on a Cheese Board. You can have a Geographical Theme if you want to! i.e. French cheese & French wine, Italian Cheese & Italian wine, Canadian cheese & Canadian wine etc. Only place the amount of cheese you think you’ll need on your cheese platter. Keep the rest wrapped and refrigerated. A recommended guide is to plan on 3-6 oz per person.
Select Favourite Cheeses from the following 4 Categories:
Soft Cheese: Blue Castello, Boursin, Brie, Bucheron, buffalo mozzarella, Camembert, feta, goat cheese, Gorgonzola, Limburger, Mascarpone, Muenster, Neufchatel, Pave Affinois, Teleme Hard Cheese: Asiago, Blue, Derby, Edam, Emmentaler, Grana Padano, Gruyere, Jarlsberg, Manchego, Parmigiano, Pecorino Romano, Raclette, Reggiano, Swiss, Wensleydale, Zamarano Semi-Soft Cheese: Bel Paese, Baby Swiss, Colby, Fontina, Havarti, Kasseri, Madrigal Baby Swiss, Morbier, Port Salut Semi-Hard Cheese: Cheddar, Chesire, Cotija, Danish Blue, Double Gloucester, Gouda, Graddost, Panela, Provolone, Roquefort, Sonoma Jack, Stilton
Planning the Wines
Once you have selected the cheeses you plan to serve, you are ready to choose the wines. Bear in mind that some wines will go with more than one type of cheese. By the same token, you can choose the wines first, if you prefer. Then, simply reverse the pairing process here.
• Plan on serving 3 to 5 oz. glasses of wine per person.
• To keep it simple, there are approximately 6 glasses of wine per bottle. If each person has 3-5 glasses of wine over the course of 3 hours, based on the number of people attending your party will determine the number of bottles of wine you will need.
• The tricky part is figuring out which wines and which cheeses will be the most popular!
As a general rule, here is a list of suggested styles of wines to pair with different cheeses.
Soft Cheese: Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Champagne, Cabernet, White Zinfandel, Vidal, Beaujolais, Bordeaux, Chianti, Sancerre Hard Cheese: Bardolino, Tawny Port, Madeira, Sherry, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Sancerre, Côtes du Rhône, Rioja, Cabernet, Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello di Montalcino, Ribera del Duero, Chardonnay, Chianti Riserva, Beaujolais, Dark Beer, Sangria, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir Semi-Soft Cheese: Chardonnay, Champagne, Riesling, Barolo, Barbaresco, Gattinara, Bordeaux, Rioja, Fleurie, Beaujolais, Chinon, Bourgueil Semi-Hard Cheese: Chardonnay, Champagne, Riesling, Cabernet, Sancerre, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chianti Riserva, Barolo, Tawny Port
How to Serve
Once you have selected your cheeses and wines, with or without a theme, presentation is paramount! Here are a few good tips:
Less is more: Focus on no more than six cheeses. If budget is a constraint, limit the choice to three but really make them good ones!
The stinky cheese factor: You may love a cheese with funk, but your guests may have a more timid palate. Tone it down, or up, based on who is coming. As a rule though, variation in taste, appearance and texture is best. Contrast is good and sparks conversation.
The cheese board: Invest in a platter made of wood, marble or slate that is large enough to separate the cheeses. You can even separate the cheeses on different platters. Make sure the color of the board is pleasant to the eye and can act as a contrast to your selections. Decorate with fresh herbs, flowers.
Cheese rind: Leave it on! And eat it too. But please do remove the wrappers.
Temperature: This is very, very important. Cheese belongs in the fridge of course, but never serve it cold. Let it stand until it is at room temperature. The difference in taste is immense. This rule also applies to the wines you are serving. If some white wines or ice wines are being served, be sure to serve them cold.
Place the cheese sporadically: Make stations in your home where people can gather to sample the cheese and wine. This way, your guests can mingle and walk about, rather than stand in one spot. You might place the suggested wine pairing with the cheese board it goes with so people can serve themselves. This will add to the interest and stimulate conversations among your guests.
Labels: Each different cheese needs a name on it so people can identify it correctly. Might even be an idea to indicate the suggested wine that pairs with it too, or have the bottle near the cheese it goes with.
Knives: Have one cheese knife per selection. Never mingle your cheese. You can use a butter knife for soft cheese and a sharp knife or slicer for firm cheese.
Individuals Plates and Glasses etc. No paper plates or plastic glasses please! A collection of smaller, even mismatched pretty plates can be interesting and fun. Rent decent wine glasses if you don’t own enough. Invest in some wine charms for people to identify their glass when they put it down somewhere! Large, pretty, printed paper napkins (or cloth!) can be themed for the occasion too.
Good cheese and wine requires tasty foods that can be added with the cheese, or popped in the mouth to enhance the combination of flavours.
Crackers: Good crackers! Carrs Water Biscuits are a perfect neutral style that won’t detract from the various cheese flavours. Also, crackers with grainy textures too, but avoid heavily salted ones.
Bread: Choose a good crusty, hearty, whole grain variety to include with a French Baguette or ItaIian loaf. Stay away from the Olive and Jalapeno Foccacia breads as they will overpower the cheese and compete with the wine.
Fruit: Sliced stone fruit like plums and nectarines as well as pear slices, grapes and apples. Dried Apricots, cranberries, prunes and fresh or dried figs work extremely well.
Honey: A small pot of good, local honey with a little serving spoon is a heavenly accompaniment to many cheeses.
Nuts: Walnuts are an excellent complement to many cheeses. Toast them and serve warm. Others that work well are pine nuts, hazelnuts and Brazil nuts.
Chocolate: If you plan on having any Chocolate at your Cheese & Wine Party, only serve a good quality Dark Chocolate with a relatively high cocoa level. It’s the only one that will truly stand up to the occasion.
ENJOY YOUR HOLIDAY ENTERTAINING!