Wine and cheese are a great pairing for both formal and informal parties. The process of preparing cheese and wine includes deciding what types of each to serve, getting a good variety of each, and making sure to serve them the right way. Fortunately, once you know how to correctly serve an appealing variety of wines and cheeses, it’s easy to plan a wine and cheese party!
Step 1: Planning a Wine and Cheese Party
1. Send out invitations a few weeks in advance to get a headcount: Once you know how many people are coming to your party, you’ll know how much cheese, wine, and other food you’ll need to get. If possible, call and ask people if they want to come to your party to know as soon as possible whether they’ll be attending.
- You can also send out digital invitations over text, email, or social media. Avoid sending invitations over snail mail, if you can, since this may come across as too formal.
2. Ask guests to bring their favorite wine or non-wine beverage: Assure them that you will also be providing wine and that there’s no pressure on them to bring any particular drink. This is just a way of ensuring that everyone who comes to the party will have something they like to drink.
- Be sure to not pressure anybody into bringing a beverage. You don’t want your guests to feel like they have to bring something for the party in order to attend.
3. Make sure you have at least 3 drinking glasses per person: Have 1 glass for red wine, 1 glass for white wine, and 1 glass for water. If you want to look extra fancy, use glasses that are specifically made for drinking red or white wine.
- Red wine glasses have shorter stems and wider mouths. These glasses allow for rich red wines to aerate as the wine is being consumed.
- White wine glasses have longer stems and taller, more slender mouths. Consider chilling white wine glasses to keep the wine cold when poured.
- For best results, make sure you also have a tableside wine chiller to keep white wine at the optimum serving temperature. Some chillers have separate temperature compartments to store white and red wines.
- Examples of soft cheese include feta, Brie, and Camembert.
- Examples of hard cheeses include Parmesan and Pecorino.
- Examples of semi-hard cheeses include Provolone, Gouda, and Cheddar.
- Examples of blue cheese include Roquefort and Gorgonzola.
- Choose some mild cheeses, like fresh buffalo mozzarella with a mild flavor and creamy texture. Select others with strong flavors, like an herb Havarti. This will allow guests to experience the difference between mild and strong cheeses from various regions.
- Offer at least 1 commonly known cheese for every cheese that is lesser-known. For example, prepare cheddar or Swiss if you're offering Havarti or Emmentaler. This will give guests who aren't familiar with rarer cheese varieties something that tastes familiar.
6. Aim to buy ½ ounce (15 grams) of cheese per person, per cheese: This should be about enough cheese for each person at the party. If you don’t plan to offer any other foods or you expect the party to last more than 2-3 hours, buy a little bit extra cheese just in case your guests want more food.
- For example, if your party will have 6 people total and you plan to serve 6 different kinds of cheese, you should buy 3 ounces (90 grams) of each type of cheese. The total amount of cheese you’d buy would then be 18 ounces (540 grams).
- Port with bleu cheese.
- Cabernet Sauvignon with aged gouda.
- Malbec with aged cheddar.
- Pinot noir with brie.
Extra tip: Pair bold-flavored cheeses with bold-flavored wines and vice versa. For example, bold cheeses like blue cheese go better with a fortified wine like Roquefort instead of a softer wine like Pinot Grigio. Lighter, creamier cheeses should go with lighter flavored wines.
8. Buy some white wines as well, so your party has some variety: Try to get an equal amount of red and white wine in case any of your guests like one more than the other. Some white wines that go well with cheese include prosecco and chardonnay. Some specific examples of cheese and white wine pairings include:
- Prosecco with parmesan
- Chardonnay with gruyere
- Riesling with ricotta
- Mozzarella with pinot grigio
9. Pick up some finger foods as well that your guests can munch on: Mix your cheese selections with crackers, bread rounds, grapes or fruit slices. These will help enhance the flavors of the cheeses. Unsalted nuts and whole-grain bread and crackers will also help cleanse the palate between wine and cheese selections.
- Complement classic Italian cheeses like Asiago or Reggiano with Italian condiments like olives or bread cubes dipped in herb olive oil.
- Pair strongly flavored or salty cheeses like Blue, Feta, and Gorgonzola with honey, grapes or berries to balance out the saltiness with sweetness. Soft cheeses like Brie pair well with condiments that have contrasting textures, like crackers or toasted bread.
- Goat's milk and sheep's milk cheeses pair well with caramelized or salted pecans, walnuts or almonds. Cow's and goat's milk cheeses also go well with chorizo or serrano ham.
Step 2: Serving Wine and Cheese
1. Bring red wine to room temperature before serving it: Red wines should be served at a temperature of about 65 °F (18 °C) for the best taste. Take the red wine out of the refrigerator for about 15 to 20 minutes before serving it to warm it up.
2. Keep your white wines chilled both before and as you serve them: Serve full-bodied white wines like Chardonnay and lighter red wines like Pinot Noir at slightly below normal room temperature. Chill the wine in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight, then let it stand at room temperature for about 45 minutes before serving.
- Lighter white wines like Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc should be chilled until just before serving. Keep these wines in a refrigerator or wine locker that will keep them at around 52 °F (11 °C).
- Keep white wines cold until they are poured by using a chilled ice bucket or wine refrigerator at the serving table.
3. Aerate the wine before serving it to bring out its flavor: This is especially important to do with younger varieties of red wine. You can aerate your wine by exposing it to the air in a decanter or in a large wine glass.
- Pour the wine into a decanter, which is a glass vessel with a wide-body and narrow mouth, to expose the wine to the maximum amount of oxygen. When decanting red wines, tip the wine bottle as little as possible. This will keep most of the sediment in the bottle instead of in the decanter.
- You can also aerate your wine by pouring it into a blender and pulsing it on high for 15-30 seconds.
- Dark red wines, like Shiraz and Syrah, that have a lot of tannins should be aerated for 1 to 2 hours before serving. This will reduce the tannic flavor.
4. Serve soft cheeses in whole bite-sized pieces. Cheeses like Brie that are soft but encased in a hard rind are best served whole to keep them intact until eaten. Place the whole round on a chilled serving platter with a cheese knife that guests can use to spread the cheese on crackers or fruit. The chilled platter will prevent soft cheeses from running.
5. Slice hard cheeses to make it easier for guests to eat them: Use a sharp, non-serrated knife to slice hard cheeses into slices about 1⁄4 inch (0.64 cm) thick. Shave thin wafers off wedge-shaped cheeses. Crumbly cheeses, like Bleu cheese, can be formed into small, bite-size pieces.
Serve your hard cheeses on wooden cutting boards, in case your guests want to cut them still further. Place these boards on a level surface with a separate cheese knife for each selection.
6. Arrange cheeses by the intensity of flavor from mildest to strongest: To best do this, put your cheeses on multiple different platters. Keep the cheeses with more intense flavors, like aged Cheddar and Brie, together on one platter. Meanwhile, place the milder, non-aged cheeses, like Mozzarella, on a separate platter.
- Organize the cheeses in a clockwise fashion, going around the edge of the plate. Place the mildest cheese at the top of the plate and place the rest of the cheeses in order from mildest to strongest around the plate.
- For best results, bring all cheeses to room temperature about a half-hour before serving to enhance their flavor.
Extra Tip: The flavors of cheeses that are made and then aged before being served, like Cheddar and Bleu, intensify as they are aged. This is why non-aged cheeses tend to have a milder flavor than aged varieties.