A well-considered cheese board is a simple and wine-friendly hors d’oeuvres that is sure to delight your guests this holiday season. While a fully stocked cheese case can be intimidating, you don’t have to be an expert to assemble your own outstanding selection. If you keep the concepts below in mind and trust your own tastes then you can easily put together a spread to impress and enjoy a delicious holiday season.
Intensity & Balance
Wine and cheese vary in intensity and can benefit from both complementing and contrasting one another. Lighter wines will pair well with less forceful cheeses while richer, bolder wines can stand up to cheeses with fuller flavors. But a crisp wine with bracing acidity will also contrast beautifully with a rich and creamy cheese and an assertive wine with more tannin can be subtly boosted by a milder cheese even if the combination might at first seem a bit unbalanced.
When selecting cheeses for a party, try to keep in mind the wines you plan to serve and ideally provide something that has the potential to pair well with each wine, but don’t worry if your guests get adventurous and choose to mix and match.
Wine and cheese both have traditions stretching back through human history and as is often the case with these ancient heritages, local preference often represents a pairing that has stood the test of time. All the grapes enjoyed in the new world have origins in the old so you can explore the regional cheese styles wherever a certain varietal is most prized.
For example, the classic pairing of White Burgundy and a hard cheese like Comté tells us that a nutty aged cheese will likely pair beautifully with a balanced Chardonnay. What’s better than learning world history while drinking wine and eating cheese?
As agricultural products there is as much variety in the world of cheese as there is in the world of wine and this makes it easy to suit all palates. Most cheeses fall into broad categories and its smart to have a representative from at least three or four of these as part of your selection.
A good starting point would be to offer a hard cheese (e.g. Gruyere or Cheddar), a bloomy rind cheese (e.g. Brie or Camembert), a washed rind cheese (e.g. Munster or Taleggio), and a blue cheese (e.g. Stilton or Gorgonzola).