My brother’s anxious voice on the other end of the telephone let me know just how serious he was about the question. He’s graduating with his PhD soon, and is having quite a soiree to celebrate. Many of his guests will be people he wants to impress — old friends, relatives, even professors who sit on a committee that could make or break his dissertation.
So rather than do what I would normally do — give him bad advice intentionally to mess with him — I decided to take his question seriously.
Many people think a wine and cheese party is easy to throw. They head down to the local supermarket, buy a red bottle and a white bottle, crack open a block of cheddar, put some Air Supply on the stereo and wait for the doorbell to ring. I think a truly successful wine and cheese party is so much more than just wine and cheese — and certainly should be planned a little better than a trip to a big box store.
Pairing Wines and Cheeses For Your Party
Red Wines and Cheddar
For reds, I’d offer a couple of bottles of Pinot Noir, and a couple of blends. When selecting Pinots, pick one slightly more expensive bottle, and one more bargain priced. The main reason for this, besides saving a bit of money, is that Pinots of different prices have very different characteristics. A cheaper Pinot will have milder flavor notes, which many people with less complex palates will certainly appreciate. The more expensive Pinot will be a bolder wine, appealing to those of your guests impressed by Big Red Wines. With Pinot, offer some aged cheddar and perhaps some Parmesan, either in small pieces or baked in thin layers in the oven as a Frite. It will be tres French.
Cheese For Red Blends
As for the red blend, look for a French blend known as Cotes du Rhone. This blend is palatable to most people, and there are many who will seek out this extremely versatile and tasy wine. A couple of bottles of the same variety of Cotes du Rhone will go fast — so be sure and set out the Gruyere cheese as quickly as possible. This pairing of a versatile red blend and a rather hard and strongly flavored cheese is one of my personal favorites.
Pairing White Wines With Cheeses
Now, onto the white wines. If you’re really looking to impress, grab a couple bottles of a moderately-priced sparkling wine. Believe it or not, there are decent sparkling wines that won’t cause you to take out a second mortgage. I suggest sparkling because of its celebratory nature, and because it will raise some eyebrows among those who know you. “He picked THIS?” Always a good reaction. With your sparkling wine, set out a buttery creamy cheese such as Explorateur or any triple cream brie.
For a companion white wine, you can’t go wrong with Chardonnay. This is perhaps the most popular wine in America (and certainly the most produced wine in the country) and your guests that don’t want a red will flock to this offering. Also, there are plenty of affordable but solid Chardonnays on the market. Pair your Chardonnay with a good Camembert like Hudson Valley or Willow Hill.
Additions To Your Wine and Cheese Party
Now that you’ve got your wines and cheeses picked, consider some additions to the table, such as chutneys, chocolate, fruit, crackers, and other small snack items. Remember not to splurge on these items, but don’t go too cheap either. The flavors will suffer as will your reputation.
Select wine and cheese pairings that compliment one another, offer a large enough variety of wines and cheeses, and provide those who may not want to eat cheese with other food items, and your party will be a success. As for playing Air Supply . . . well I certainly wouldn’t do it, but that’s a different article . . .
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