Choose a diverse selection of cheeses, including different types such as soft, semi-soft, hard, blue, and aged. Aim for a range of flavors, from mild to intense, and consider including cow’s milk, goat’s milk, and sheep’s milk cheeses. Some popular cheese choices include Brie, Camembert, Cheddar, Gouda, Roquefort, and Parmesan (one of my favorite wine cheeses). Want something unique? Include a Huntsman, Apricot Stilton, or other combination cheese.
Provide a variety of wines that pair well with different types of cheeses. Consider reds, whites, rosés, and sparkling wines – traditional options such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir all make for excellent pairing but don’t be afraid of other varietals. If unsure, consult a local wine shop or access your trusty internet. You can base your tasting around a theme or make it BYOB for the ultimate exploration. Who knows – you may decide to make it a “thing.” years ago, I started a roaming tasting club where a different member would host the tasting and set the theme each month. Everyone would bring one wine and a pairing cheese; in short order, we had tasted our way across the city and worldwide!
Start with milder cheeses and lighter wines, then gradually progress to more robust flavors. This tried-and-true tasting regimen, used by nearly all wineries, helps to ensure that participants can appreciate the subtler nuances before moving on to more intense combinations or “burning out your taste buds!” For example, you can begin with fresh goat cheese paired with a chilled Sauvignon Blanc, move on to a Brie paired with Chardonnay, and finish with a bold blue cheese alongside a rich Cabernet Sauvignon. The options are endless. Remember that after six pairings (maybe fewer if the wines or cheeses are exceptionally bold), you may not be able to differentiate the subtler flavor components.
As with any tasting, be sure to offer a variety of accompaniments to enhance the tasting experience. These can include bread or crackers, fresh or dried fruits, nuts, honey, olives, or even charcuterie items such as cured meats. These additions can help cleanse the palate between tastings and offer contrasting flavors and textures. Just be sure to minimize extremely strong flavors – you don’t want to overpower the next pairing!
Some hosts like to prepare brief descriptions of the wines and cheeses, including information about the origins, flavor profiles, and other notable characteristics. This is especially useful for those with less experience, or when the selections or less common. Others prefer to provide tasting sheets to allow participants to record their own impressions and reactions. Whichever you choose, the key is to encourage discussion and the exploration of the different combinations. Half the fun is in the sharing. Discussing the interplay of the flavors adds to the overall enjoyment and educational aspect of the event. Most importantly, remember, wine and cheese tastings are subjective, and personal preferences may vary. The main objective is to have fun, explore new flavors, and appreciate the beautiful marriage between wine and cheese.