Menus & Entertaining

How to host a wine and cheese party

Author: Canadian Living

Menus & Entertaining

How to host a wine and cheese party

A cheese party
Throw a cheese-tasting or cheese-and-wine-tasting party. Experiment and have fun while indulging and educating your guests in the superb art of our dairy producers.

Choose a range of Canadian cheeses and wines and discover — along with your guests — your own favourite matches. Lay a table with eight to 12 cheeses, at least three different wines, bread, crackers and fruit accompaniments, and perhaps a bowl of olives or some nuts in the shell for guests to crack.

For a more formal tasting with real cheese lovers, make individual tasting plates and serve two or three courses of cheese with selected wines and accompaniments; for instance, you could start with a selection of cow's and goat's milk soft and semisoft cheeses, strawberries or peach slices and a baguette with a dry white or light-bodied red wine.

Follow with an interesting array of aged firm and hard cheeses, dried figs and apricots, and hearty rye bread, accompanied by a full-bodied red wine. Then serve a plate of blue cheeses, pear slices, walnut bread and a glass of port. Finish with a dessert of Medjool dates accompanied by a fresh cheese, such as mascarpone.

Which wine?
Everyone agrees that wine is cheese's best friend -- and vice versa. (There is a wine merchant's saying that cheese will make any wine taste better.) But there is much disagreement among cheese and wine experts as to matching them. Here are some general guidelines.

• For a varied cheese plate, almost any dry white or red wine is appropriate.

• If serving cheese as an appetizer, sparkling wine or Champagne is always welcome. Dry sherry is good, too.

• “Spicy" white wines, such as Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris, and fruity wines, such as Muscat and Riesling, are consistently cheese-friendly. Choose a lighter, not heavily oaked style of Chardonnay.

• Most red wine is cheese-friendly. Generally, the richer the cheese, the richer the wine. For a cheese plate of mild and medium cheeses, choose a lighter wine, such as Pinot Noir or Gamay; for richer, creamier and full-flavoured cheeses, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Meritage blends are strong choices. (Discover more great recipes for red wine here!)

• Serve full-bodied or sweeter wines with after-dinner cheese plates. Late-harvest dessert wines or Sauternes are classic; for extra pizzazz, try a semidry sparkling wine. Port, medium-sweet sherry, Madeira and Marsala pair well, especially with blue cheeses. Save your icewine to drink by itself; it is too intense and sweet for cheese.

• Nonalcoholic alternatives include sparkling or still dry cider; nonalcoholic apple or pear cider mixed with sparkling water; nonalcoholic beer, especially with strong cheese; and mineral water, but don't add lemon or lime wedges.

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How to host a wine and cheese party

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