By – AJ
Cheese and red wine is one of the all-time classic flavour combinations. The silky notes of the wine can combine with the robustness of the cheese to create fireworks in the mouth: flavours that bring each other out for a fuller enjoyment than if they were consumed separately.
A cheese and wine party is a wonderful way to enjoy both – and the perfect solution to a winter’s evening too. You only have to picture the scene – the fire crackling, the table filled with cheeseboards, grapes and crackers – to begin feeling comfy and warm.
There are wines and there are wines of course; and there are cheeses that go with some and not with others. So how do you host a decent wine party without picking the wrong drinks?
Start with the Cheese
Cheese is harder to find than wine. Not that it’s difficult to get a good cheese form a supermarket: but in that it’s hard to find unusual cheeses from the places a person would ordinarily shop. So in order to combine the right wines with the available cheese, the first thing to do is to go out and buy the cheese board.
You can do this in two ways – either by selecting random cheeses according to personal preference, or by choosing a cheese board selection put together by a wine merchant or supermarket. In the latter case, you will tend to find a selection split fairly evenly between strong and mild cheeses: ideal for a tasting party.
Match the Wine
The next step is to match the wine varieties to the cheese types. This is where books and the internet come in handy. Rather than relying on the tasting notes on the back of bottles, the reading of which could take you all day, seek out a wine book where a trusted expert has indexed different cheeses for quick reference to wine types. Then you can make a shortlist of the bottles thought to go best with each cheese, or with the variety of cheeses on offer.
Set Your Budget
If you’re buying all the bottles yourself, set a red wine budget. Sticking to it will not only protect you from accidentally spending over the odds on the party – it’ll also help you to discover unusual wine varieties. By having to stick to a per bottle price for each cheese or each course, you will be forced to think outside the case, as it were.
Talk to Your Wine Merchant
Many wine merchants provide case exploration services – where a selection of wines are included for you to try, according to the purposes of your evening. Tell most wine merchants you’re having a red wine and cheese evening, and they’ll be only too happy to find you the right number of bottles and bring the lot in under your budget requirements.
Get Your Friends Involved
A wine and cheese party can be more fun if it is made as a communal endeavour rather than as an event you are hosting. Invite each friend with a request to supply one bottle of wine and the cheese to go with it – or vice versa. That way you won’t get wine and cheese only to one person’s tastes – and everyone will feel like they have been made part of the evening. You can even swap tasting notes and impression of each other’s offerings at the end of the night.
All parties are essentially about having fun. Make sure you enjoy yours fully. Don’t get too caught up in whether you have the precise right cheese for each wine, or wine for each cheese. Just open a few bottles of red, get involved with your favourites cheeses and invite your favourite people.
About the Author:
AJ is a food writer. She is researching a book about English cheeses and their wine combinations.