August 20, 2018 0 Comments

Wine and cheese go together like peanut butter and jelly.  Hosting a wine and cheese party doesn’t need to be difficult.  With just a little preparation, you can throw a high class party that your guests will rave about.  So put on your apron, set a gorgeous table, and let’s get ready to party!


Your first step in preparing for your party is to determine your guest list.  A wine and cheese party is usually a more intimate affair, not a large keg party.  A good size guest list is about six to eight people.  This allows for an easy flow of conversation between everyone without being overwhelming.  Part of the fun of this type of party is that everyone gets to express their opinions about each wine and cheese, along with the pairings.

Guests talking at wine and cheese party with fruit and cheese plate and wine glasses

How to Invite Your Guests


I put a lot of thought into my invitations, no matter what type of party I’m hosting.  I enjoy choosing the best stationery or digital file for each affair.  If you’re someone that prefers digital invitations over paper, you’re in luck.  Most online invitation services have a variety of designs to choose from specifically in the wine and/or cheese categories.  It seems that everyone has embraced pairing these two items together to produce the perfect themed get-together.


Be creative with your wording.  Set the tone for the evening.  Your invitation should paint a picture of what your guests can expect from your soiree.  For example:

            Enjoy a fun filled evening with close friends.

            Relax as you sit at a table that overflows with wines and a plethora of cheeses.

            The flavor selection will overwhelm your senses.

            Pair your wines and cheeses with an abundance of meats, breads, and desserts.

            Your appetite for both food and friendship will be indulged at this romantic feast.


The Wine & Cheese Party Experience is In the Details


Once the logistics of the guest list and the invitations are set, you’re ready to get down to the nitty-gritty.  Plan that party!  The first refreshments that we need to choose are obviously the wines and cheeses. You’ll want to have a broad selection of wines to fit every taste.  White, red, rosé, pinot noir, riesling…do you know the difference between any of these?  If you’re not quite the sommelier, it’s time for your crash course.

 

Friends clinking glasses toasting with wine

It's officially a party when the toasts begin.

Learning About Wine: Wine 101

White Wine


Wines are described as different varieties, which ultimately describes the type of grape that is used to make the wine.  We’ll first start with white wine varieties.

Gewürztraminer is just a fun name to say.  Let’s try it together.  Don’t worry, I probably don’t pronounce it correctly either.  But I sure can get my point across to order it and sip on this yummy German wine.  Sometimes it is called Gewürz for short, as if that makes it easier to say. This variety tastes fruity and has aromas of allspice, lychee, peach, and rose petal.  Gewürztraminer pairs well with Muenster cheese. If you’re looking for an entrée to serve with it, its flavors are brought out beautifully with Asian dishes, especially pork.


Riesling is my favorite wine variety.  FAVORITE.  This is also a German wine, originating in the Rhine region.  It has high acidity and is usually semi-sweet.  Riesling often has a hint of apple and tree fruits.  California Rieslings are making a good name for themselves.  Imported does not always mean better, and the West Coast of the US is making that well known with their Riesling.  This wine pairs well with brie.  (Let’s be honest, everything pairs well with brie!) As for entrees, serve Riesling with pork or white fish. As with the Gewürz, this tastes great with Asian dishes.

Sauvignon blanc is another variety that’s fun to say.  It just makes you sound a bit more sophisticated when you speak French.  This grape comes from the Loire Valley and Bordeaux regions of France.  The taste of Sauvignon blanc wines is actually widely determined by the climate where the grapes are grown.  Cooler climates produce more acidic tasting wines with hints of “green flavors” such as grass and nettles.   Warmer climates produce tropical fruit flavors in this wine. Some people claim that warmer weather causes the wine to lose some of its aroma. Sauvignon blanc pairs well with so many cheeses. My favorite are Gouda and Havarti, but it honestly tastes delicious with a simple cheddar.  For meals, pair this wine with a delicate fish or anything with pesto.


Chardonnay is an extremely popular white wine variety.  This type tastes great both as sparkling wine or as still.  This is another French wine, originating in Burgundy.  It is fairly dry with tones of citrus.  Some wineries are experimenting with fermenting Chardonnay in new oak barrels to add a buttery tone such as vanilla…yum!  Chardonnay pairs well with goat cheese, especially if it has that buttery flavor.  It also goes extremely well with fish, chicken, or pasta.  There’s something so soothing about a cool Chardonnay with a light pasta dish. It goes down so smoothly.


Red Wine


Now we can move on to the basic varieties of red wine.  I’ll start with Merlot, simply because it’s my favorite red wine.  As long as it’s not from a box, I’m happy with any brand of Merlot.  Who am I kidding, I’ll drink it from a box too(but the fancy kind)! This type of wine is also from the Bordeaux region.  California and Australia also make delicious Merlot flavors.  The flavor has a hint of black cherry that gives it a taste that envelops your entire mouth as you drink.  Merlot pairs well with Camembert and Gorgonzola cheeses. When it comes to entrees, this wine pairs well with heavier meals such as flat iron steak, lamb, and pork loin.


Shiraz wine seems to be everywhere.  This type of wine is popping up at all of my local wineries in full force.  It is also called Syrah.  Both names describe the same variety. Shiraz comes from France’s Rhône Valley.  Again, California and Australia have added themselves to the list of regions that can successfully grow delicious grapes for this variety.  The flavor of this wine can be described as wild black fruit, such as blackcurrant.  If you don’t know what blackcurrant tastes like, just think of a purple Skittles candy in any European country.  (The purple candies taste like grape in the United States though. You’ve learned something today.) This variety of wine pairs well with aged or smoked cheeses. Like Merlot, Syrah pairs well with beef or lamb.


Pinot noir is a wine that stems from the Burgundy region of France.  The west coast of the United States, even as far north as Oregon, also grows delicious grapes for this wine.  This is a lighter red wine that has fruity aromas like cherry and strawberry.  Choose a nice Gruyère or a Gouda cheese to eat with this scrumptious wine.  As for entrees, Pinot noir goes well with salmon or duck.


Cabernet sauvignon is the final red wine variety that you’ll learn about today.  This is pretty much regarded as the best variety of wine, period.  It originates in Germany, Austria, and France.  The taste is slightly oaked with fruity aromas. Cabernet sauvignon pairs extremely well with cheddar.  That makes for a simple snack to put together without needing to go to a specialty grocery store.  Cheddar is everywhere! This variety of wine goes extremely well with beef or veal dishes.


Food, Glorious Food! Creating Your Party Menu


Now that you’ve learned about the basic varieties of wine and what to pair them with, you can choose what you will serve at your wine and cheese party.  I have already discussed which cheese to pair with each wine.  Your guests will want more than just wine and cheese. (Honestly, why? There’s not much more to life!)

 

Three charcuterie boards side by side with different cheeses, meats, olives, and grapes

 

Bread and crackers are an easy choice.  Serve a variety of each.  Crusty breads are best.  There’s something so satisfying about biting into a crisp piece of bread that is soft in the middle.  Put a slice of cheese on that bread and wash it down with wine.  It is delicious. Of course crackers go well with cheese.  Store bought crackers are easy and let you choose from a variety of flavors and shapes. This is an easy way to add more variety and give everyone a chance to find a new favorite!


Your guests will also enjoy a spread of meats to go with the cheese and crackers.  Salt or smoke cured meats are a guilty pleasure for so many people.  You can really impress guests by making a charcuterie plate.  Charcuterie is a French word for any smoked, dry-cured, or cooked meat. Most plates include bacon or prosciutto, different types of hams, and pate.  You can dress the charcuterie plate to be an amazing sight.  Serve it on a wooden board. Give each type of meat a different section of the board.  Break up the meat varieties with clumps of different colored grapes and dried fruits, such as apricots. The fruit gives the board a nice pop of color compared to the fairly monotone meats.  


Nuts also go well with wine and cheese.  You can dress up a plain bag of store bought nuts by roasting them with olive oil and sea salt.  Nuts such as almonds, pecans, and macadamias are delectable and easy for your guests to snack on.  You can also drizzle roasted almonds with chocolate and sea salt.  I once added drizzled caramel to the mixture and thought I had gone to heaven!


Pickled vegetables are delicious.  A relish tray is an easy and fairly inexpensive way to give your guests more options.  If you would like to expound into an international feel, consider having Asian pickled foods such as kimchi, kraut, or artichokes.  You can do so much with the flavors and your guests will appreciate having foods that are outside their normal food routine.

 

charcuterie board with cheeses, meats, breads, and pickled vegetables

There's something for everyone here. And by everyone, I mean me.

Olives are a great addition to the food spread for your party.  Olives can have so many different flavors.  Again, it is nice to offer a variety.  Your guests can sample each type and compare the different flavors and textures.  There are buttery olives like Castelvetrano and there are salty olives like oil-cured black olives.  Many supermarkets now offer an olive bar.  That is a great option for you to shop if you do not know how to prepare olives on your own.


Impress Your Guests With Fun Fruit Creations


We already included some grapes on our Charcuterie board.  Don’t skimp on other fruits though!  Fresh berries are a delicious way to indulge any sweet tooth.  Blueberries and strawberries are a hit for almost everyone.  If you would really like to impress your guests, consider making a fruit arrangement.  There are commercial services that deliver fruit “trays” that look like flower arrangements.  While that is an option to consider, they are actually fairly simple to make.


Use a melon baller to make the centers of any flowers that you would like to create.  Simple cookie cutters can be used to make flower cutouts.  Easy fruits to use for this are pineapple and watermelon.  To use a pineapple as a flower, core the fruit. Slice it into rings. Now use a cookie cutter to fashion to ring into a pretty flower petal.  Put a melon ball into the center of the pineapple ring and secure with a toothpick.


Add kiwi and chocolate dipped strawberries into the arrangement to provide a nice color variety as well as flavor choices.  The fruit can be put onto a skewer for display.  Insert each skewer into a piece of floral foam that has been cut to fit into a decorative flower pot. You can easily create an edible centerpiece that guests will talk about.


Appetizers Keep Your Guests Happy


Nobody wants a "hangry" guest. And let's face it - If it's a good party, it will go on a while. So, it's good to have something a little more filling than wine and cheese at your wine and cheese party.

Finger foods are best for this party.  You definitely want some appetizers that are a little bit more substantial than fruits and crackers.  Shrimp toasts are easy finger food that gives guests a nice touch of protein with a lot of flavor.  Season the toast wedges with sesame seeds to give a great texture to this delicious food.

 

Appetizers to go with your wine and cheese party and keep guests satisfied 

 

Pinwheel sandwiches are a nice visual accent to a food table while providing a fairly substantial snack.  Baked ham and cheese pinwheels fit perfectly with the theme of the party.  Dress each sliced piece with poppy seeds to provide the guests some extra flavor to this comfort food.


Are your guests looking for something with a little more bite to it?  Buffalo chicken dip is a hit at so many parties, from a laid back Super Bowl party to an elegant wine and cheese engagement.  This can be served with tortilla chips, cut vegetables, crackers, or crusty bread.  The options are varied for this delicious and simple dip.

 

A vegetable tray is an easy option.  Some guests will also appreciate a healthier option while they take in so many delicious flavors during the evening.  As with the other dishes, you can really prepare your vegetables to look like a piece of art.  Crudite is a French word for a vegetable arrangement that is served with a dip.  You can dress up the tray with a hearty dip like hummus. Vary the colors of vegetables to provide your guests with a visually stunning piece of art that they can eat!


When most people think of a wine and cheese party, they don’t normally think of pizza.  Pizza is what kids eat after they win a soccer game.  It’s what people eat when they’re drunk and have closed down a bar.  But pizza has so many options, and you can easily make a fancier pizza that guests will devour.  Consider a Mediterranean pizza made on pita.  Feta and tzatziki sauce give this type of pizza an international taste without reminding people of their local Domino’s franchise.  Grilled Caprese pizza features the ingredients of a Caprese salad on top of a thin crust and sprinkled with a vinaigrette dressing.  Asparagus and potato pizza is a visually appealing recipe that resembles nothing of a typical pizza.  Drizzle some pesto over the dish and really let your taste buds zing.


Decorating Your Space


Once you have set your menu, it is time to decorate for the party.  Simple is best for this affair.  A little goes a long way. Your food will actually serve as the most prominent decoration.  You want to make sure that your guests have room to mingle and to easily access the foods so they can partake throughout the evening.  The topic of conversation at this party is the food and drink itself.  Everyone is welcome to give critiques about each pairing or combination that they concoct.  


Rustic decorations can be made to look very elegant.  I have seen a lot done with simple burlap and white doilies.  The burlap suggests rustic but the doilies add class.  Your guests will most definitely not mistake themselves for being in a dilapidated barn by decorating with these fabrics and textures.


Make sure that each wine, cheese, and food is described.  Your guests should be free to diverge from the suggested pairings and see what they prefer.  While experts say certain wines go with certain flavors, there is no denying that every individual has their own individual taste.


Kick Back and Relax!

Now that you have made your preparations, it is time to enjoy your party!  Take off your apron, sit back, and enjoy a cool glass of wine as you glance over the beautiful table that you have set for your friends. You’ve earned it, and of course you must test the wine to be sure it is up to par.
I am sure that every host and hostess puts forth a lot of effort to host an evening like this, but the rewards are plentiful.  Your friends and guests will appreciate all of your work while having a great night full of memories to be made.

Remember to pin this so your friends can host their own party as well!
collection of pictures of charcuterie plates and friends toasting with wine glasses with text overlay