Learn everything you need to know about hosting a great dinner party — from selecting a variety of cheeses to matching wine.
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.
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.
• Serve full-bodied or sweeter wines with after-dinner cheese plates. Late-harvest dessert wines or Sauternes are classic; for extra pizzas, try a semi-dry 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; non-alcoholic beer, especially with strong cheese; and mineral water, but don't add lemon or lime wedges.