When you're hosting your first wine-and-cheese party, it can seem intimidating. What cheese do you serve? How do you pair cheese with wine? It doesn't have to be a daunting task. Compared with planning a wedding, this should be a piece of cake.
We checked in with the internationally trained cheese experts professionally known as the Cheese Twins for some tips and tricks to help you newlyweds plan a wine-and-cheese party like a pro. Here's what they had to say:
Let the Right Tools Serve You
Depending on how far ahead you are planning, you may have an opportunity to register for gifts that will make home entertaining a breeze. A few things we recommend having on hand are a wooden or slate cheese board, a flat kitchen knife, a cheese harp (we like Boska or Formaticum) and wineglasses. Our favorites come from Riedel because they are suited to specific types of wine and make your pairings taste even better. Now you're ready to host!
Keep It Simple
It's best not to overwhelm your guests with too many options. Thoughtful but simple is key. Choose four to six cheeses. This ensures a big enough selection so that everyone is bound to like at least one or two but not too much to overwhelm anyone or confuse their palates. Plus, it'll help move the conversation along among guests, as they talk about which are their favorites. For wine, have a red and a white on hand to accommodate all tastes, again keeping the choices simple. Our go-to wines are from the coast of California (like us!): Meiomi chardonnay and pinot noir.
The Right Cheese Selection
A general rule of thumb for wine-and-cheese pairings is that like goes with like. If you are serving a creamy white wine with notes of stone fruit, like Meiomi chardonnay, we recommend pairing it with a creamy triple cream, aged cheddar, or fresh goat cheese. The creamy textures marry perfectly, and the stone fruit flavors in the wine will be a decadent surprise with the cheese.
If your red wine is fruit-forward with a little spice, choose a hard, savory cheese, like an aged sheep-milk cheese. (Cypress Grove's Lambchopper is perfect.) If you want to add some color and panache to your cheese board, try pairing it with a fudgy blue cheese, like a Caveman blue from Rogue Creamery or an aged Stilton from the U.K.
For couples who want to be prepared to entertain on short notice, we recommend keeping what we call "the in-laws' cheese" on hand: artisan Parmesan. It stays fresh much longer than most other cheeses, so you can buy some, store it in the fridge, and forget about it until someone happens to pop in for a visit. And between parties, it complements easy-to-make dishes like pasta and can be eaten as a quick, delicious snack.
Prepping for the Party
Now that you have your cheese and wine, it's time to prep. For indoor entertaining, you should take the cheese out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before your guest arrive. (The flavors are muted when the cheese is too cold.) If you are entertaining outdoors in warmer weather, we suggest waiting just a few minutes before guests are set to arrive; 15 minutes should do. Cut your hard cheeses in advance into small, bite-size bars or chunks. That way, everyone gets a taste and it's easy to move throughout the party without hovering over the cheese board. If you are serving a soft cheese, like a brie, or a cheese that crumbles, like feta or blue cheese, serve with crackers and a knife so that guests can help themselves. If you are serving a very soft cheese ready to run out of its rind, like Harbison from the Cellars of Jasper Hill or Epoisses from France, consider slicing the top of the rind off with a cheese harp. Place the remaining cheese on the board with a spreader and a sliced baguette or crackers. Dried fruits and nuts are always a nice touch.
Lay It All Out There
Slices of a baguette or simple crackers are the perfect vehicle to spread soft cheeses and won't throw off any of the wine pairings. Walnuts and dried apricots go hand and hand with a creamy cheese and wine with a creamy mouthfeel, like Meiomi chardonnay; dried figs go well with expressive dark-fruit-flavor wines like pinot noir. The key to an Instagram-ready cheese board is color and placement. Garnishes not only add some color to a cheese board, but they taste great together. Group the pairings on the board so it's easy for your guests to navigate their way through and identify which wine goes with the cheeses and garnishes. They'll appreciate it and will be snapping pics all night!