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Wine and cheese work together like instruments in an orchestra: Each is enjoyable on its own, but together, they can create a symphony. Wine and cheese bring out the best in each other. The protein in cheese softens the tannins in wine, and the right combination can result in a harmonious medley of delicious flavors.
Hosting a wine and cheese party is a fun way to enjoy your favorite pairings as well as to sample new combinations. It’s also a fast and festive way to bring people together during the busy holiday season without elaborate preparation.
Party by Number
Planning a wine and cheese party should be fun and easy, not like doing calculus. By keeping just a few guidelines in mind, you can make the most of your party while having plenty of time to spend with your guests instead of in the kitchen.
In general, plan on four ounces of cheese, three ounces of crackers or crusty bread, and half a bottle of wine per person. Olives, nuts, and fruit are good choices for additional tasty tidbits.
You can even ask guests to bring a bottle of wine and their favorite cheese partner–but coordinate the efforts in order to avoid ending up with multiple combinations of the same wines and cheeses.
Try theme pairings: Have each guest bring a wine from a particular European country with a cheese from that same country, or a domestic wine with a domestic cheese.
Cheese to Please
Strive to have flavors either contrast or complement: Contrast strong blue cheese with sweet port, for example or complement creamy, buttery Chardonnay with creamy, rich Brie. It’s fun to discover your own pairings, but some natural combinations make reliable palate pleasers.
> Hard, mild cheeses pair well with most white wines and light reds.
TRY: Wensleydale or Cheshire cheese with Beaujolais.
> Hard, mature-flavored cheeses pair nicely with fuller white wines and light reds.
TRY: Aged Gouda, Parmigiano-Reggiano, or sharp cheddar with GewÃ¼rztraminer and Viognier or a young Zinfandel.
> Soft, mild cheese makes an appealing partner with full whites, light and medium reds, or fortified wine.
TRY: Brie or Camembert with Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Beaujolais Nouveau, or Pinot Noir.
> Goat cheese pairs well with fuller whites, medium reds, sparkling wine, and fortified wine.
TRY: ChÃ¨vre with white Bugundy or spumante.
> Blue cheeses pair well with sweet white wines, full-bodied reds, and fortified wine.
TRY: Stilton, Gorgonzola, or Roquefort with Sauternes, ChÃ¢teauneuf-du-Pape, or Cabernet Sauvignon.
Provide each guest with two wine glasses–one for reds and one for whites. Wine glass charms add a touch of whimsy and help guests keep track of their glasses. Serve cheese at room temperature in order to bring out its full flavor, keeping in mind that hard cheese takes longer to warm to room temperature than soft after it’s removed from the refrigerator. If you have time, it’s fun to label cheese with markers to identify each variety. Place each bottle of wine next to its best cheese pairing, but explore different combinations. Your experiments may confirm why other pairings are recommended–or you may discover a new combination! The most important thing is to relax and have fun–and enjoy the harmony of flavors.