How to host a cheese and wine party?

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How to host a cheese and wine party

Creating Your Perfect Cheese Platter

Wanting to create a perfect cheese platter, that’s simple, fun and ‘oh-so-tasty’? Whether it’s an after-dinner snack or an elaborate cheese and wine party, these helpful tips will enable you to create a wonderfully successful platter to impress:

The essential cheese collection

There are many types of cheeses – and variations thereof – which you could use for your platter, the most popular options being:

  • Goat’s cheese
  • Soft White cheese (e.g. Brie or Camembert)
  • Cheddar
  • Gouda
  • Eye cheese (e.g. Gruyère or Swiss-style cheese)
  • Blue cheese

For a more elaborate presentation, the following can be added:

  • Cream cheese (e.g. Philadelphia)
  • Mascarpone
  • Parmesan
  • Pecorino
  • Gorgonzola
  • Halloumi
  • Feta

When selecting your cheese, remember that different shapes and colours will add that extra dimension to your presentation. Don’t just select wedges or blocks, but be sure to include rind cheeses, waxed cheeses, rolls and balls to make your cheese platter irresistibly special.

How much cheese do I need to buy?

Firstly, you will need to determine the number of people attending and then work out your volumes based on the general guidelines below:

On average, a person can consume 180g of cheese in an evening.
If a variety of other foods will be offered, you’ll want to lower it to 90g per person.
If you are catering for a large function, or are simply unsure about the volumes needed, the best thing would be to consult a caterer in your area to guide you through the process.

Ok…I have my cheese. What now?

The cheese should be served at room temperature, so for the best results, leave to stand in a dry area for approximately 1 hour.

Traditionally, it is advised to arrange your cheeses in order of pungency from the mildest of cream cheeses to the more robust cheeses.

A fun addition to your platter would be to design some labels or cheese toppers – aesthetically pleasing and informative.

Let the event decide what type of platter you will be using – place your cheese on a rustic wooden board for an outdoor casual affair, a spacious white porcelain platter for an intimate dinner setting or a stunning marble, granite slab for that wow factor in a formal setting.

Extra eye-candy that you may want to consider:

  • French breads; flat breads; rye bread; whole wheat breads; bread sticks
  • Variety of preserves like whole preserved figs; sweet chilli; cranberry sauce; honey; plum butter; quince paste
  • Pickled onions, gherkins, olives, pepperdews
  • Savouries, including nuts and biltong
  • Fresh fruit – grapes; berries; pears; pomegranates and avocado – all go wonderfully with cheese.
  • Don’t forget the chocolate!

The essential wine collection

A cheese platter would not be complete without an accompaniment of some gorgeous South African wine! The selection of wines available these days is mind-boggling, but don’t be afraid to experiment with different or unusual wine blends. Turn it into a fun night in and have your own little wine tasting ahead of time to select the wines you want for your platter – it’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it, right?

Tips on choosing the right wine

Familiarise yourself with the wine labels. They are full of interesting facts and descriptions about the particular blend and origins. Logic would dictate that all the information, love and care put into marketing the wine through the label, reveals the passion associated with the winemakers themselves. So yes, in this case you can ‘judge a book by its cover’.

We have included a handful of terms most commonly used on wine labels, to describe the ‘personality’ of wine:

Buttery Refers to a rich flavour and smooth texture, somewhat akin to the oiliness and flavour of butter. More often refers to oak-aged white wines than reds; many Chardonnays are said to have buttery aromas and flavours.
Crisp Fresh, brisk character, usually with high acidity.
Earthy Smell or flavour reminiscent of earth. This is not necessarily derived from the soil itself as it can be associated with minerals. A certain earthiness can be appealing.
Fleshy Positive term used to describe a wine rich in fruit flavours and texture
Flowery Aroma suggestive of flowers. The most predominant floral aromas referred to are jasmine, honeysuckle and rose.
Fruity Aroma and/or flavour of grapes, most common to young, light wines but refers also to such fruit flavours in wine such as apple, blackcurrant, cherry, citrus, pear, peach, raspberry, or strawberry.
Full-bodied A wine of full body possessing a large proportion of flavour, alcohol and extract.
Lively Crisp, fresh wine that stimulates the palate with a pleasant acidity.
Luscious Rich, opulent, and smooth.
Mellow Smooth, soft and well matured wine with no harshness.
Oaky Aroma and flavour derived from aging in oak casks or barrels. Characterized by smokiness, vanilla, clove or other spices. Should not be overly pronounced.
Robust Full-bodied, powerful, heady.
Spicy Having the character or aroma of spices such as clove, mint, cinnamon, or pepper.
Young In simple wines, signifies youthful freshness; in finer wines, refers to immaturity, wines as yet undeveloped.

 

How much wine should I buy?

By rule of thumb, one person could drink on average up to a half a bottle of wine in an evening. However, it all depends on the guests’ drinking habits, the occasion, time of day and the duration of the party.

Will all your guests be drinking wine? You might want to consider non-alcoholic beverages, like grape juice or sparkling fruit juice.

How do I pair cheese with the right wine?

Here, personal preference is key; it’s about trying different combinations and finding what works for you, but if you are still unsure, try keeping to this basic formula and you can’t go wrong:

  • Sparkling wines pair well with cream cheese
  • Sauvignon Blanc and other young fresh wines go well with goat’s cheese.
  • Chardonnays and full-bodied Cabernets go well with Brie and Camembert.
  • Medium-bodied reds, like a Merlot or a Pinotage, go with hard, stronger-flavored cheeses like Parmesan, Gruyère or matured cheddar.
  • Sweet/dessert wines go with pungent blue cheese.

Image Courtesy: savoringtoday.com

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