Wine and cheese parties have long been an exciting way for guests to come together and mingle without the formality or stress of serving a full meal. The best part is, wine and cheese parties are surprisingly easy to plan and execute! They can also range from being a casual event to a highly sophisticated affair depending on your guests and the overall vibe you’re looking to achieve.
So what are you waiting for? Just follow these 5 tips, send out invitations to family and friends, and throw a fantastic Wine and Cheese party!
1: Choosing the Right Cheeses
When it comes to throwing a cheese party, “variety” is the key to success. Not all of your guests may share the same level of adventure and curiosity when it comes to trying out new cheeses, so make sure you have a range of cheese that include both mild and more daring options. Not sure where to start? Here is an easy formula to follow every time:
Include at least one of the following:
- Mild / Soft Cheese (Queso Fresco, Brie, Oaxaca, etc)
- Aged / Hard Cheese (Gouda, Cotija, etc)
- Semi-Firm (Manchego, Chedder, etc)
- Blue Cheese (Gorganzola, Roquefort, etc)
In addition to selecting local American cheeses, make sure you feature some international cheeses as well. Half of the fun for your guests will be allowing their taste buds to travel across international destinations like Mexico, France, and Italy.
For over 40 years Cacique® has continued to be the leading U.S. producer of authentic Mexican Cheeses, and offers a wide variety of delicious options some of your guests may have never tried before — click here to learn more.
2. Spice it up with Garnishes!
Incorporating fun and delicious garnishes and accompaniments is an essential step in putting together any successful cheese platter. You can incorporate any number of crackers, nuts, fruits, and even sliced meats to serve as the perfect counter-parts to your cheese selections.
The secret to selecting the perfect compliment to your cheese lies in creating a complimentary balance of flavor. For instance, if you were serving a very mild cheese, like Mexican Queso Fresco, then a sweet fruit like grapes or strawberries would be the perfect compliment. Similarly, if you’ll be serving a very strong-flavored or pungent cheese, you’re best to offer a more neutral compliment like lightly salted crackers or thinly sliced baguettes. We also find that firmer or more aged cheeses like Manchego pair wonderfully with sliced meats.
Here are a couple of our favorite cheese accompaniments:
For mild / fresh cheeses:
- Choose fresh fruits (strawberries, blackberries, apple slices, figs)
- Olives (some olives are more salty than others—be sure to taste before you buy in bulk!)
- Dark semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate
For Stronger cheeses:
- Nuts (roasted almonds, toasted hazelnuts, walnuts, or pecans)
- Thinly sliced French baguette or other specialty breads
- Lightly-salted crackers
For Aged cheeses:
- Dried fruits (cranberries, apricots, figs, or raisins)
- Spicy / Sweet condiments (raspberry chipotle sauce or red pepper jelly)
3. Choosing Wines (or Beers!) For many people selecting an appropriate combination of wines can be the most intimidating part of planning a Wine & Cheese party—but it doesn’t have to be! Although you can always ask the wine attendant at your local store for pairing ideas, if you follow these general rules of thumb you can’t go wrong:
For Soft / Mild Cheese → Choose fruit-forward white wines, such as Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc or Champagne.
For Harder / Stronger Cheeses → Choose slightly less sweet white wines, which can include Riesling or Pinot Blanc, or light bodied Reds such as Pinot Noirs and Syrahs.
And don’t forget about beer! The same general rules about choosing complimentary beers—just select lighter beers to go with lighter cheeses, stronger flavored beers to go with stronger cheeses. We also find that firmer and more aged cheeses like Manchego go particularly well with malty flavored beers or those with a hint of bitterness.
4. Serving Your Guests With any wine and cheese party, a little effort spent on presentation can go a long way. Work with what you have, but there are many inexpensive cutting boards that you can buy at your local retailer or online. One fun idea is to use a slate board or chalkboard table runner, as shown in the photo above. They can be purchased from Amazon for under $10 and allow you to exhibit the cheese names and your pairing recommendations using chalk.
Looking for a smaller-scale approach? You can keep the same rustic charm of using a chalk with Slate Plate’s large slate cheese board, available online for under $40. Link
If you’re expecting a lot of guests, it may be wise to pre-cut some slices of each cheese to allow for easy snacking.
5. Creating Ambiance
Wine & cheese is always more enjoyable when you’re in the right setting—but achieving this can be as easy as dimming or turning off a few lights, and adding some candles to your table setting. Then put on your favorite music in the background. We think Jazz, Bossa Nova, or salsa make great choices, but it’s entirely up to you (if heavy metal sets the mood for your, we’re not gonna judge).
Parting words of wisdom Despite the mountains of literature and advice you’ll find about both wine and cheese, at the end of the day you don’t need a special pedigree to know what tastes good—so take the pressure off yourself and just have fun! Part of the wine and cheese experience is supposed to be trying out new combinations of flavors even if they don’t always work. Your wine and cheese party also doesn’t need to be a costly affair—just have each of your friends bring their own favorite bottle of wine so you can focus on the cheeses and garnishes. It doesn’t really matter how you slice it, present it, or describe it—good cheese, wine, and friends will always make for an eventful evening. Enjoy!