How to plan
Because wine and cheese can get expensive, it's best to keep your guest list to a minimum. Once you have your head count, write down a few of the wine flavours you'd like to have available -- chardonnay, pinot grigio, cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, Bordeaux and sparkling wine -- and start pairing them with cheese. Here are a few guidelines:
- Sparkling wines go well with mild cheeses.
- Acidic wines (like a pinot grigio) go best with soft cheeses: they help cut the fat and expose the cheese's flavours.
- Full-bodied reds and chardonnays taste best with rich cheeses (think brie or camembert).
- Red wines will always go best with strong-flavoured cheeses (like aged cheddar or parmesan).
If all else fails, head to your local cheese maker or grocery store -- any person behind the counter should be able to offer you some delicious wine-cheese pairing recommendations.
Nosh on other nibblies
To complement your wine and cheese pairings (and to provide extra sustenance) it's important to serve a few other appetizers guests can nibble on. Opt for simple crackers which party-goers can eat with their cheese selections. You can also create a spread of bread and olive oil or smoked meats. Keep whatever dishes you serve to the finger-food variety -- that way guests will only need small plates or napkins to eat from.
Wine tasting tips
Be sure to have guests taste whites before reds -- the full-bodied tannins of the reds will all but kill their taste buds to the sweetness of the whites. You may also want to have some recyclable Dixie cups on hand to serve and sip from (whenever guests swap to a new wine, they should use a fresh glass).
Building your cheese plate
To create the perfect plate of cheese, start with several trays or dishes. Place the soft cheeses on one plate and harder ones on another. Be sure to have one knife available for each cheese -- using a knife for multiple brands will result in flavour-mixing. Also, in front of each cheese, place a small handmade label describing the cheese and what wine it goes best with -- this will help educate guests on the perfect wine-cheese pairings.
More party planning tips: