Let’s be honest, the days of serving chips and dip as an appetizer are over. These days throwing a dinner party is more than just the main course. It’s about the entire experience! That means, if one thing disrupts the seamless flow of an entertaining dinner party, well, it can ruin the whole evening.
So, why not start your evening on the right foot? Wow your guests with something different and interesting. Give them something they’ll want to tell everyone about… something that will set your party apart from all the others. Give them a cheese board!
Now, this might not sound that amazing or unique, but with the infinite amount of wine, cheese and olive pairings, the experience certainly is. Every cheese board is different, therefore every cheese board offers your guests a delightfully new food experience. Now, that’s something they can carry with them forever.
While selecting cheeses and olives to pair with wine may seem daunting, trust me, it isn’t. So long as you stick with a few simple guidelines you can also create an amazing cheese board that your guests will fall in love with. Here’s how!
Step One: Get to Know Your Cheeses
This is perhaps the hardest step for people to get over, but it really isn’t that difficult. True there are hundreds of varieties of cheeses to choose from. There are sharp aged cheddar and creamy brie, alpine flavored fontina, and musty bleu cheese, all of which can create a harmony of delicious flavor when combined together just right.
Cheese, much like wine, run the gamut in flavor profiles and textures. However, cheese contains an additional note of aromas and flavors that you won’t find with wine alone. Here are a few guidelines when it comes to selecting the right cheeses for your party:
When cheese ages, moisture evaporates leaving behind protein and fat, both of which contain the most flavorful elements of cheese. This is why older cheeses such as aged sharp cheddar boast bold, strong flavors. Older cheeses might also develop other flavor profiles such as nutty and earthy or pungent. Younger cheeses such mozzarella or ricotta contain milder flavor profiles that tend to be citrusy or sweet and they also have very soft textures.
The texture is super important as it helps to provide the distinct flavor profile of cheese. Different cheese textures will produce different flavors.
Hard cheeses such as Cheddar, Swiss or Parmigiano-Reggiano, will have flavor profiles that range from sharp to mellow, and earthy to tangy. The longer the cheese ages, the harder it becomes changing the flavor profile dramatically. These cheeses often pair well with full-bodied wines such as Malbecs and Cabernet Sauvignons as the wine’s acidity can cut through the cheeses’ rich texture and deliver it’s distinct nutty or earthy flavors.
Semi-soft cheeses such as Havarti and Fontina contain buttery, mellow flavors that melt in your mouth. Semi-soft cheeses are infused with pepper or spices sometimes, adding flavor to the velvety texture these cheeses display. These cheeses pair well with medium-bodied wines like Cabernet Franc, with its bell pepper-like flavors and mild spiciness.
Fresh cheeses such as Mascarpone, Ricotta, or Mozzarella, aren’t aged all that much. Typically these cheeses are soft and moist with a creamy texture that has a very mild flavor. These cheeses pair well with lighter wines such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir.
Bleu cheeses such as Gorgonzola, Roquefort or Stilton known for their strong flavor profiles and non-appealing look, are an amazing addition to any cheese board. The signature marbling and molding might not entice some people, but that’s what leads to this cheese’s incredible taste and texture. These cheeses actually come in a variety of textures and flavors ranging from creamy or crumbly to mild or bold flavors.
Bleu cheeses tend to pair well with full-bodied wines like Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon.
Soft cheeses come in two offerings. There are soft cheeses with bloomy rinds such as Brie or Camembert. Then there are soft cheeses with washed rinds such as Taleggio and Limburger. Those with bloomy rinds are ripened for a small amount of time which means they have a creamy texture with rich buttery flavors. These cheeses will pair very well with lighter wines such as Chardonnay or Champagne.
Soft cheeses with a washed rind have a pungent aroma with bold meaty flavors. They also contain a moist texture that can be runny or dense, depending on the cheese. Typically these cheeses pair well with Rieslings and Pinot Noir.
Step Two: Get to Know Your Olives
Olives are one of the world’s most popular foods, and why not? They’re tasty, healthy, and provide an extra kick to any dish you’re having. Olives are also packed full of healthy vitamins, antioxidants, and nutrients. From Spanish-style green olives to Kalamata olives and everything in between, olives are a great addition to any cheese and wine pairing.
Olives and Wine Pairing
Green olives have a particular versatility when it comes to much different wine and cheese pairing, but perhaps the best pairing is with Cabernet Franc. Due to its vegetal flavors, Cabernet Franc goes well with the hearty saltiness of green olives.
Additionally, brown and kalamata olives pair well with red wines such as Pinot Noir. The deep velvety flavor of Pinot Noir pairs well with the sweet brininess of Kalamata olives.
There are many ways to make a delicious and lovely cheese board that pleases your guests. There’s no exact “right” way to assemble a cheese board, it’s more like a balance between science and art. Don’t’ get hung up on the “absolute” rules so much as think about which flavors and aromas would go well with each other. Have fun, planning a dinner party doesn’t have to be stressful, and with these tips under your belt, it won’t be.
Come by our Laguna Beach Wine Tasting Lounge to stock up on the very best wines, artisan popcorns, cheese, chocolates, and olives for your next dinner party!