How to Host a Wine & Cheese Pairing Event for under $100
A wine and cheese pairing event can be a fun way to explore new wines and cheeses while making new friends. Try it at a picnic, birthday party, casual BBQ or a special holiday gathering with family. Follow these simple rules, and you will enjoy great success.
Serves 8 people.
Requirements: 4 cheeses (2 oz. per serving), 4 bottles of wine, corkscrew, appropriate glassware, cheeseboard/cutting board, cheese knives, plates, napkins, bottled water, plain crackers or bread. A nice extra touch would be dried fruits and nuts, but this is optional. Small notebook and pencil/pen for taking notes.
Budget: Cheese $30, Wine $40, Crackers or Bread $11, Water $4, Dried Fruit and Nuts $14. Total cost= $99
The Event: To become a better gourmet consumer, you must learn to taste and evaluate the products you are sampling. Both wines and cheeses will be evaluated through sight, smell and taste.
Look: What do the products look like? Look for color, clarity, texture, any outstanding characteristics. In wine, look for clarity; for cheese, evaluate the rind.
Smell: The nose carries 5,000 to 10,000 different smell receptors. These receptors send messages to your brain, informing it of what you’re tasting. They induce emotional response from eating and bring back childhood memories of picnics on mother’s blanket under the aromatic apple tree, for instance. If your cheese has been sitting out, perhaps coming up to room temperature before you serve it, try taking a fresh cut before you smell your cheese, or take the piece you have and break it in half. Cheese flesh that’s been unexposed to the air will be more fresh and pungent. Smell your wine for floral elements, leather, or grass.
Great smell words: Grassy, Pungent, Earthy, Citric, Sweet, Gamey, Lactic, Buttery, Nutty, Herbaceous, Toasty, Spicy
Knowing a vocabulary of cheese and wine, and making reference to what’s familiar, will enhance what you taste and help you verbalize what you like and dislike the next time you order cheese and wine.
Tasting: When you taste, take your time and don’t forget about your nose! Breathe out through your nose when you swallow and pay attention to what’s called the retro-nasal effect, the aromas that hit the passage between your throat and nasal passage. Pay attention to texture, mouthfeel, first impressions and lingering notes. Trust your palate to tell you what you are experiencing, and share with friends. Your tastes are uniquely your own and there are no right or wrong answers.
Plate and Pairings: When selecting the cheese and wines within your budget, try to select a variety of flavors and varietals to create tasting and visual interest. Select something for everyone attending: white and red, sweet to dry wines, and simple to bolder aromatic cheeses. Select a variety of locations, a variety of milks, or even cheese and wines where the label appeals to you. Again, there is no right or wrong here; just have fun.
When pairing, think about these elements: 1) Balance- try not to let a cheese or wine overpower the other; think harmony, 2) Texture- start with light cheese and wines first; a heavy cheese needs a heavier wine; think mouthfeel and body, 3) Terroir- pairing like cheese and wines from the same geographic area is a classic way to highlight the gift of the land from a specific locale, 4) Complementary Flavors- pair light citric wines with bright lactic cheeses; think sameness, 5) Contrasting Flavors- think salty and sweet, spicy and smooth; think opposites.
Experiment with different options and find combinations that suit your palate. They don’t all work, but it’s a fun culinary adventure at a cost of $12 per person.
Simple Suggestions: Sauvignon Blanc with a Goat Milk Chevre Chardonnay with a Sheep Milk Farmers Cheese Cabernet Sauvignon with an Aged Gouda Port with an aged Blue Cheese
Have fun and take notes!