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Tuesday, September 15, 2009
How to Throw a Fantastic Wine and Cheese Party

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By Kristin Masters

        A wine and cheese party is an easy and low-key way to entertain. Perfect for quick gatherings after work or elegant evening celebrations, a wine and cheese party offers an opportunity to taste new wines and mingle with friends.

Preparation and Set-Up

        It is important to make sure that the wine and cheese are served at the proper temperature. Place wines in a wine cooler a day before the party. Roughly 15 to 20 minutes before the party begins, red wines should be opened, so that they can breathe before being served. If guests unexpectedly arrive with a bottle of white wine or champagne, a single-bottle chiller is a quick and tidy way to share their gift with the whole group.Throwing a Great Wine and Cheese Party

        Since cheese tastes best at room temperature, it should be removed from the refrigerator about an hour before the party begins. Cheeses can be displayed on attractive platters or cutting boards. A cheese board, which has a built-in slicing blade, is a great option for harder cheeses. Cheeses can be labeled using place setting cards. The ambitious host or hostess can also include information about pairings or the cheese’s history on the card.

        For more adventurous groups, or for wine enthusiasts, a long buffet table featuring a variety of wines and cheeses is the ideal way to explore different flavor combinations. If the party will include mostly wine novices, different stations of classic pairings offer foolproof flavor profiles that will appeal to any palate.

        Regardless of the table configuration, guests will need easy access to bottle opening tools, wine glasses (both red and white), plates, and napkins. Wine charms are also a great touch, because they help guests identify their wine glasses. Cheat sheets about classic pairings or how to taste wines make a thoughtful addition for aspiring wine connoisseurs.

What to Serve

        While certain wine and cheese pairings are perennial favorites, it is best to present guests with a variety of wines and cheeses to suit individual tastes. A safe approach is to serve fruity or sparkling wine, which will cut the fat of cheese and yield the most reliable flavor. However, following several basic guidelines will ensure that the wines and cheeses at your party will satisfy the majority of guests:

  • White wines work best with soft cheeses that have stronger flavors, such as Camembert, Brie, goat cheese, or Gouda.

  • Red wines best complement harder cheeses with milder flavors, like sharp cheddar, Stilton, Gorgonzola, or Parmesan.

  • For bold wines like Bordeaux or Cabernets, strong cheeses with equally aggressive flavors are best.

        More pungent cheeses, including those with mold or blue veins, go best with dessert wines or port. Ultimately wine and cheese pairings are a matter of personal taste. Enlist guests to share their favorite wine and cheese pairings and contribute to the menu with a bottle of wine and a matching cheese wedge. Or choose a theme for the party, serving a selection of one kind of wine, or wines and cheeses that all come from the same region.

        In addition to serving wine and cheese, other finger foods like crackers, caviar, and fruit balance the party menu. Dark chocolate goes well with red wine, and is an excellent excuse to serve dessert and coffee. The key is to keep the menu light and simple, for easy preparation and clean up. With the right preparation and menu, a wine and cheese party is a delicious and trouble-free way to entertain at home.

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