Saturday, December 21, 2013

Hosting a holiday dinner party generally involves a lot of cooking and coordination, between prepping for each recipe and making sure every course comes out at the right time. But maybe your in-laws are in town or you haven’t seen your neighbors lately, or perhaps you just want to invite a few friends over to catch up. Only, the thought of hosting a dinner party seems completely exhausting! Not to fret, for there is a perfect entertaining solution: the wine and cheese pairing party!

With a wine and cheese pairing party, you can entertain while still having a fun, stress-free evening. With a minimum amount of prep, a wine and cheese party can still impress your guests if done well! Here are our tips for hosting a lovely wine and cheese pairing party that will come together with ease:

1. Select your cheese: Since the culinary focus is on the cheese, we suggest choosing three to five different kinds from the different cheese groups, including blue, semi-firm, aged and hard, pungent, and soft and creamy. For example, that might put gorgonzola, cheddar, gruyere, taleggio, and brie on your cheese board. But if you opt for just three cheeses, always make sure to have one hard cheese, one soft cheese, and one medium cheese. And you will have the best selection and expert advice if you go to a local artisan cheese shop. Lastly, take your cheese out of the fridge 30 minutes-1 hour before serving so that it’s room temperature.

2. Select your wine: Now, perhaps some party planners select the wine first, but we’re so smitten with cheese that we like to do it the other way around! Each cheese should pair with a specific wine, which means you will have 3-5 bottles of wine open to go with your cheeseboard selections. Both red and white wine should make an appearance at a wine and cheese pairing.

In a typical tasting, you progress from dry to sweet for white wines and then from light to full bodied with red wines, so you can set the wines up in that order. But there’s no need to get hung up on doing everything exactly the way a winery would! White wine is usually suggested for creamy, soft cheeses and red wine for strong, aged cheeses.

3. Breads and spreads: A sip of Champagne with a bite of brie wouldn’t be complete without some breads and spreads on hand! Set out a variety of crackers and slices of bread from a crusty baguette to complete your wine and cheese pairings. You can also coordinate your spreads to the kinds of cheeses you have chosen, or simply set out a variety of options and let your guests experiment as they please! We like to set out apple slices, walnuts, almonds, a bowl of grapes, some pitted dates, an olive tapenade, dried fruits, fig jam, balsamic vinegar/glaze, honey and fruit chutneys.

4. Make it pretty: A simple wine and cheese pairing party is instantly elevated with thoughtful presentation and décor. First, be sure to label each cheese so your guests know what they are trying. Second, focus on creating a beautiful tablescape. For example, we love the idea of setting the table with chalkboard paper! This rustic idea allows you to write out each wine and cheese pairing with chalk, using arrows between a bottle of wine and its paired cheese to signal that they go together! See this cute example on Apartment Therapy!

5. Tasting Tips: Wine tasting is an art! First you look at the color of the wine, which can tell you about the age of the wine. Then you swirl, which opens the wine up and releases its aromas. Go ahead, stick your nose right in the glass! That’s the way a true wine enthusiast gets a proper whiff. Try to think of a couple words to describe the wine based on the aromas, and have your guests all contribute too. Then take a sip! Another tasting tip: take a sip of wine, take a bite of cheese, then take a sip of wine again. 

That’s everything you need to host a wine and cheese pairing party! Wishing you a very merry holiday season filled with soirees (and effortless entertaining!)


P.S. Learning the intricate complexity of which varietals pair with which cheese is the subject of many a weighty culinary tome, but we thought we would get you started with a few wine and cheese pairing ideas. Remember though, the perfect pairing is simply the one that tastes best to you!

Blue cheeses: dessert wines like Port or a fruity Zinfandel, Sharp Cheddar: Shiraz or Sauvignon Blanc, Manchego: Grenache or Tempranillo, Monterey Jack: Riesling or Merlot, Brie: Chablis or Champagne, Gruyere: Syrah or Chardonnay, Taleggio: Malbec or Pinot Noir, Swiss cheeses: Gewurtzraminer or dry Riesling, Camembert: Cotes du Rhone or Sauvignon Blanc, Chevre: Sangiovese or Sancerre.