How to throw the perfect wine and cheese party
Wine and cheese party is one of my favourite themed parties, because it's fun, cool to look at, and so easy to prepare. The one I threw last week was a huge success, and the feedback was incredibly positive. Thus I wanted to share with you some of my tips and tricks to how to prepare for your next wine and cheese party
The wine is obviously one of the main components here. I like to have a good mix of red and whites so there's something for everyone. Also different wines goes with different cheeses so it's good to have a selection. If you have lots of guests, say more than 10, then it would be a good idea to throw in some rosé and bubblies as well, especially during summer times.
Generally speaking, when choosing the wines, variety is always a good thing. For example, when choosing choosing the reds, grab something that’s easy drinking like a Merlot, as well as something with bolder, bigger flavours, such as a Cabernet Sauvignon or a syrah. For white wines, on the lighter side of the spectrum we have a refreshing Sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, and an rich, oaked chardonnay. This way, we make sure that there's something for everyone, and that we have different wines to pair with different cheeses.
Don't forget to chill your wines so they're at the perfect drinking temperature. A lot of people thought that red wines should be served at room temperature and white wines are served fridge cold, but this is not necessarily true. A friend of mine, who's a sommelier, have taught me that to chill white wine, make sure to take it out of the fridge 20 minutes before serving, so that it's perfectly chilled, but not so cold that the aroma of the wine remain dormant. Whereas for red wines, it's best to put them into the fridge 20 minutes before serving, which chills the wine enough that it's slightly cool but not by all means cold. Trust me when I tell you that small details like this do make a huge impact on the whole wine tasting experience.
Buying wines for a party could be overwhelming. Thus during times when I can’t be bothered to choose my bottles one by one, I will go for a variety box where I can get a selection of different wines, knowing that a professional wine enthusiast have picked out some of their favourites for me. In my opinion, both Majestic Wine and the Sunday Times Wine Club have some very good ones, at a reasonable price. This not only save me time and effort but also money. 8 out of 10 times, there are online promotions for those who buy mixed cases, and those are the times where I stock up on my wine stock to ensure I have a stable supply of wines for all my meals and parties. To prepare for this particular wine and cheese party, I got all of my wines from the Sunday Times Wine Club when they were on sale, where I paid only £18 for 2 reds and 2 whites, as well as 2 beautiful complementary wine glasses.
I know it’s supposed to be a wine and cheese party, but let’s not forget those who prefer not to drink alcohols. I like to prepare couple of still and/or fizzy drinks or even mocktails, so everyone could enjoy the party.. Here are some of my favourite recipes, shall you require some inspiration.
Elderflower and ginger fizz:
For each serving, mix together 1 part of elderflower cordial, 3 parts of ginger ale, and 2 parts of soda/ carbonated water. Pour into your glass of choice and garnish with a spring of mint and a slice of fresh ginger.
For each serving, mix together equal parts of orange juice and grapefruit juice. Pour into a glass and top with a splash of pomegranate juice. Garnish with a wheel of orange and a cocktail cherry.
Like the wine, we always want to have a variety of cheeses for the party. In general, I would say choose something mild and soft, such as a brie or a goat cheese; something rich and firm like a gouda or aged cheddar; and something strong and stinky, such as a stilton. That way, we will have majority of the spectrum covered.
It cannot be a bad idea to pair the wine and cheese we have prepared. There are a lot of in depth information online on wine and cheese pairings. My personal favourite wine and cheese pairing guide is the one I've found on Wine Enthusiast, where they gave detailed explanation to how to choose the appropriate wine and cheese mariage.
For this particular party though, because I’m a lazy person on student budget, I purchased a cheese selection box from my local grocery store. Of course, if you have slightly more budget you can by all means go to your local deli, from which you can find not just cheese, but also charcuterie and other good stuff for your party. Ask a shopkeeper for recommendation as they know their stuff best! If you have already bought some wine, tell them what you have and ask for recommendations on the cheese. They will be able to recommend specific items that complements your wine selection very well.
When it comes to serving, it’s essential to cut the cheese into single, bite size servings. That's because during the party, when everyone is around the table trying to cut a piece, it’s almost inevitable that people will make a chaotic mess, and that will ruin the beautiful layout which you've spent so much time and effort to set up. I would therefore suggest cutting your cheese into small pieces before placing them onto the cheese board; except for all the soft, spreadable cheeses such as goats cheese and brie. This is because you cannot really cut them into single servings, or they will spread and smear around and make a even bigger mess. So the rule of thumb is, cut everything into small pieces, except for soft cheeses. Don't forget to have a knife placed next to each types of soft cheese so when people cut into it they won’t mix flavours.
Jams and chutneys are optional but they are good to have, as I find they complement cheese really well. The basic thing to have will be honey, which you probably already have in the pantry. They go well with most salty, creamy cheeses and stinky cheeses, such as a salty goat cheese and blue cheeses. That salty-sweet sensation is just so addicting.
My personal favourites to have on a cheese board would be a spiced mango chutney and some sort of fruit jams. They give an interesting flavour twist and it's fun to play around and try out different flavour combinations. If you can, try having 3 to 4 options so you can have more room for experiments.
A wine and cheese party isn’t just about the wine and the cheese. The snacks we serve alongside the cheese board are equally important. I like to incorporate different textures to make it mote interesting. So I prepared nibbles like nuts, dried fruits and fresh fruits for my guests and some of them make good matches with the cheeses we had as well!
Without a doubt, crackers are an essential element to any cheese parties. To make our lives easier, I would suggest getting a cracker selection box, where we could instantly have several good options and we know that they all go well with most cheeses (after all, that’s what it’s designed for, right?). Other than ordinary cheese crackers, breadsticks or puff twists are also good to have on hand. They make an interesting addition to the party, and they are so aesthetically pleasing when placed vertically in a vase.
I love serving dried fruits on my cheeseboard, especially dried apricots.The sweet and chewy fruit complements the rich and creamy cheeses so well and the texture is so addicting. Dried berries are also good but I find them messy to handle at times as they are so tiny and tends to run around on the table.
For fresh fruits, grapes are always good. It complements most wines (as they’re made out of grapes, duh) and they don't require any cutting, nor will they give me or my guests sticky fingers which makes it a convenient choice in a casual party like this one. Another fruit I like to serve is fresh figs. They are sweet and succulent when they’re in season, and they go pretty well with lighter red wines, like pinot noirs. And they’re just so cute to look at. I'd also prepared some cantaloupes since they are so perfectly sweet and juicy, making it the perfect refreshment. This is especially true if you also are going to have hams and/or other cured meats. Try to avoid having anything that oxidises, since obviously they will sit around for a while in the party and if anything goes brown, it just doesn’t look good on the table.
Another thing I like to do is marinated olives. They are really simple to make and you can prepare them ahead. I made mine by first making some herb infused olive oil. You will need enough oil to cover all the olives, so if you're going to marinate 1 cup of pitted olives, you will need to prepare equal volume of infused olive oils. For each cup of herb infused oil, Gently heat 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil with 1 tsp of oregano, 1 tsp of thyme and 1 tsp of rosemary. The herbs could be either fresh or dried; the flavours you get from them will be slightly different but they are equally good. I also like to pop in some lemon rind as they give a uplifting freshness to the final product. Once the oil is ready, you should smell the fragrance of the herbs wharfing up your face, and then it's time to pour the warm (don’t let the oil bubble!) infused olive oil over the olives and let them infused in the fridge for at least overnight.
Things like crisps are always good to have on hand for any kind of party. Ask your guests to bring them to the party as they’re cheap and easy to buy, so that there's one less thing for you as the host to worry about. And I find it the easiest thing to ask for when my guests ask me "should I bring something over with me to the party?".
There you have it! Some simple tips and tricks on how to throw a gorgeous wine and cheese party without breaking the bank. If you're going to use any of my suggestions in your next party, make sure to comment below or tag me @flammingrowan on your social media as I would love to see it!