By Al Edenloff
How about some cheese with that w(h)ine?
A wine and cheese party can break up the winter doldrums by providing a fun night with friends as you compare how different types of wine go with different kinds of cheeses.
Even if you feel like you’d qualify for a “Wine for Dummies” course, you can easily pull off an entertaining evening with these simple tips.
Prepare a guest list. Keep numbers manageable (between four and 12) so the setting is somewhat intimate.
Decide on the wine. As host, you could provide the wine, or a more adventurous option is to ask each guest or couple to bring a bottle of their favorite, or something they’ve wanted to try. Have at least a couple bottles of reds and white wines ready in case all your guests bring the same varietal. Your goal should be to have just enough for guests to enjoy making casual comparisons, without getting too tipsy! Figure about four bottles per dozen people.
Buy a variety of cheeses. For your first wine and cheese party, try three to five cheeses. Your pallet would be overwhelmed with more than that. Buy at least one ounce of cheese for each person to try. Don’t be afraid to try cheeses you’ve never tasted before. A few options:
Semi-firm (cheddar, fontina, manchego) with cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc or rioja.
Super-aged (gouda, asiago, parmesan) with champagne or merlot.
Pungeant or “stinky” cheese (taleggo, Langres) with pinot gris or Gewurztraminer.
Mild, soft cheeses (brie, goat cheese) with merlot, chardonnay or sauvignon blanc.
Other accompaniments. Make sure you have water and other palate cleansers available such as fruit (strawber- ries, grapes, apples) and veggies. You may also want to include a couple kinds of meat – spicy salami or prosciutto.
Set the stage. A couple of hours before the party, take the cheese out of the fridge so it warms to room temperature. Make sure your white wines are chilled. Place labels in front of cheeses, listing the name and characteristics of each.
Keep it fun. Liven up the evening with some blind taste testing. Pour cheap wine in one glass and an expensive kind in another and see if guests can tell the difference. See if they can tell the difference between a merlot and cabernet or, for the whites, between a sauvignon blanc and a chardonnay.
Sip away, compare notes, laugh over who is the best wine “snob” and make a rule: No more whining!