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Wine & cheese party tips

Claire is an aspiring nutritionist (and soon to be culinary student) with a serious addiction to bacon, wine, goat cheese and online shopping. She is recently married to a social media guru who loves *almost* everything she conjures up. ...

Tips for hosting a fun pairing party

Nothing goes together quite like a robust glass of wine and a deliciously aged slice of cheese. Show your love for this fabulous pairing by hosting a party with your favorite wine- and fromage- obsessed friends. A wine and cheese pairing party is a great way to learn more about wine and cheese and try new varieties of both!
Wine and cheese party

The best wine and cheese parties are those that encourage the guests to interact by bringing their favorite wines and cheeses for the rest of the guests to sample. If your budget allows, invite a sommelier to speak about the wines and their growth process, as well as recommend favorite pairings. If you can't swing that, do a bit of research on your own and surprise and impress your friends with your knowledge of the grapes and cheese.

How to prep

Decide how many guests you want to invite and prepare invitations. Allow yourself at least two to three weeks for paper invitations (which also gives guests time to RSVP) and at least a week for evites. Once invitations have been received and guests have RSVP'd, shop for your stemware and cheese plates. What you'll need for a party of 12 guests: 

  • At least 20 wine glasses (to allow for any extra guests who come, any breaks and anyone who'd prefer a different glass for white and red)
  • Wooden cheese boards with knife sets (not absolutely necessary)
  • Cheese and wine tasting labels

Shopping list

Although this party is primarily focused on wine and cheese, it's important to also pick up palate cleansers, like fresh fruit, vegetables and water, so that guests can truly enjoy the differences in each sip and bite. Here's a sample shopping menu that's full of great variety and bargain cheese and wine as well:

  • Bunches of fresh strawberries, grapes, blueberries, melons and apples
  • An array of fresh vegetables, like broccoli heads, celery sticks, carrots and cauliflower
  • A few meats, like prosciutto or spicy salami
  • Blue or Gorgonzola cheeses
  • Semifirm cheeses, such as cheddar, fontina or Saint-Nectaire
  • A super-aged cheese, like Parmesan or Gouda
  • A very pungent ("stinky" cheese like Langres or Livarot
  • A mild and soft cheese, like Brie, goat cheese and Camembert
  • A variety of dry and fruity reds, like merlot, pinot noir, zinfandel and rose
  • A variety of dry and sweet whites, like pinot grigio, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc
  • One or two bottles of sparkling wines, like Champagne or Prosecco

Quick Tip

For each cheese, you'll want to buy at least one ounce per person. For beginner parties, limit yourself to three to five cheeses and four to six wines, so as not to overwhelm the palate (and the guests).

Setting up

Wine and cheese on cutting board

When decorating for your party, keep things simple and classy since you don't want to draw focus away from the main highlights of the evening -- the wine and cheese! A great accessory to have on hand is a detailed book on wine and cheese, such as Cheese & Wine: A Guide to Selecting, Pairing and Enjoying by Janet Fletcher, so guests can look up facts on the wines and cheeses they are enjoying. Make sure the room is well-lit and even the addition of unscented candles (you don't want to detract from the aroma of the cheese) will make an impact.

When setting up the cheese trays, put one to three varieties on each board to give guests a chance to try a few different kinds. Be sure to have labels in front of or inserted into the cheese so guests know what they are trying. Put a few different bottles of wine with each tray, varying from one tray to another, so guests can sample different reds and whites with different ripe cheeses.

Games and crafts

Although games and crafts are not necessary to a great wine and cheese party, they are a fun way to interact with your guests and learn new things as well. One great game you can play is a blind tasting. Buy an expensive bottle of wine and a cheaper bottle of wine and pour each one into an identical pitcher. Then have your guests sample each one and try to guess which one is the more expensive bottle and which one is not!

A fun craft for guests is to provide plain wine glasses and glass paint and have your guests decorate their own take-home wine glass. You can do this with plain ceramic cheese plates as well.

Hosting your own wine and cheese party is a great way to learn about wines and familiarize yourself with cheeses. Besides, do you really need an excuse to snack on fancy cheese and sip on delicious wines?

Watch: How to pair wine with cheese

Learn how to pair wine with cheese in this video.

More one wine and cheese

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