I present some important steps to prepare an entertaining and educational tasting of cheeses and wines at home.
Do you want to organize a party with your friends and family, but you don’t have time to cook? Or maybe you do not like to spend hours in the kitchen, but do love wine pairings? Maybe you want to spend a good time and learn about different wine styles ? For all of you, I have three words: cheese and wine.
If we consider the quantity of cheeses and wines available in the market, for some it may seem like a complicated or straightforward terrifying exercise. But stay calm. Let’s go step by step. It is much simpler than it appears. Just plan the evening well and then just have fun with your guests.
1. Which wines?
The first step is to choose the wines that you would like to present during your tasting. An optimal selection should consider two factors: quality and variety. I propose you 6 wines for different cheeses:
- Casillero del Diablo Devil’s Collection Brut for goat cheese, Mozarella, Brie, Edam or Parmesan
- Casillero del Diablo Sauvignon Blanc for fresh goat cheese such as Chavroux or Asiago
- Casillero del Diablo Chardonnay for goat cheese, Provolone or Gruyere
- Casillero del Diablo Merlot for Camembert or Cheddar
- Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon for washed rind cheese such as Limburger and Munster
- Concha y Toro Late Harvest for Roquefort or Gorgonzola
A 750 ml bottle reaches more or less for 5 generous glasses of wine. If you prefer smaller portions or tasting portions, consider a bottle for 8 people. If there is wine left, do not worry. Cover the bottles with their own corks and keep them in the fridge. You can drink them during the week.
Another important aspect is the glasses. Let’s count: 5 guests and 6 wines. 30 glasses! Crazy! That’s why I recommend using a tulip-shaped medium-sized cup, and mark the name of each guest, for example, tying a ribbon of different color on the stem. Also, consider water and spittoon on the table. So, the guests can pour the leftover and clean the glasses for the next wine.
For a good tasting, we should consider between 4 and 6 different cheeses. Of course, you can choose your favorite cheeses, but I propose something: mix cheeses of different styles or follow some specific criteria such as:
- Cheese moisture level (semi soft as Fontina, semi hard as Gouda, hard as Parmigiano).
- Country or region of origin (France, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, etc.).
- Type of milk (goat cheese, sheep or cow).
- Maturity (fresh as Mozzarella, soft-ripe as Brie, with washed rind as Munster and blue as Gorgonzola).
Tips: investigate in your neighborhood where you can buy good cheeses. Calculate 50 to 100 grams per person. Cheeses can be stored in the refrigerator, but before the tasting they should be removed and served at room temperature.
The cheeses can be served on a wooden board. It is very useful to prepare markers (for example, cards affixed to a cork) with the names of the cheeses. You can also recommend or suggest the type of cheese for each wine. The cheeses are cut into small pieces with those knives specially designed for this purpose. If you do not have those, you can use a normal knife, although I recommend buying a set of cheese knives. They’re worth it!
A tasting of cheeses and wine also asks for some snacks that harmonize well with the flavors of both. Each cheese has specific aromas and flavors, so it is very important to understand and choose the perfect accompaniments:
- Blue cheese: its intensity calls for biscuits slightly sweet, like oats. In addition, they can be served with a little honey.
- Goat cheese: it is light and fresh. That’s why I recommend serving it with some soda crackers and berries jam. If you have a fresh and creamy goat cheese, as is the case with the Chavroux, use it with a few sticks of raw carrot.
- Hard and intense cheese (Manchego): refresh it with a few pieces of apple or pear, in addition to a baguette type bread. A wonderful pairing is with quince jam.
- Semi-hard cheese (Gouda, Edam, Emmental): they have aromas of nuts and herbs. So, pair them with fresh fruit such as apple, pear or grapes. I love them with an apricot jam.
- Parmesan: it is a salty cheese, with aromas of fresh and dry fruits. Serve it with fresh figs, dried or as jam. A word of advice: some droplets of balsamic vinegar lift and stir the fig jam.
- Cheddar cheese: it is known for its intense personality, well salted and powerful, with notes of dried fruit. The most recommended is dehydrated cranberries (it is the most acidic of all dried fruits) or blackcurrant jams. But I also suggest a salty version. Try it with gherkins in vinegar or white radish.
I now present a mini list of strains and nuts that, from my point of view, match perfectly:
- Sauvignon Blanc: pine nuts
- Chardonnay: almonds
- Viognier: Brazilian nuts
- Riesling: glazed nuts
- Pinot Noir: Pekanas
- Syrah: European hazelnut
- Malbec: macadamia
- Merlot: chestnut
- Cabernet Sauvignon: walnuts
Remember: on several occasions, I have suggested omit in your dishes toasted Chilean hazelnuts and pistachios, because they give the wine a sensation very similar to what we know as a cork aroma. And we do not want anything that spoils our party. Just to enjoy it!