A sprinkler goes with the lawn. Chocolate loves strawberries. Mornings need a coffee. But do you know what our famous match made in heaven is? Wine and cheese, naturally.
So as you plan your next quiet night in or a forthcoming social extravaganza, a well-devised and perfectly executed wine and cheese combination is the perfect treat.
Luckily, creating a no-stress, epic cheese board is super simple for easy entertaining and the perfect wine & cheese night.
Here’s what to do:
- The Board
You can’t have a cheese board without the board, so it’s the perfect place to start.
For simplicity, opt on the larger side of large — small servings will still look elegant and it’s a lot simpler than putting together several boards for several hungry mouths.
There are no rules when it comes to what style or material of board to opt for, so let your personal preferences run wild as you choose between wood, slate, glass, marble or something else.
Wood is by far the most popular, affordable and practical, however it’s a very smart move make sure you always hygienically clean wooden chopping boards as they can really hang onto the odours of stronger cheeses.
- The Cheese Knives
You might think all you need is cheese and a board — but you’d be leaving out all the necessary accoutrements like knives and little bowls.
The most important thing to remember is that when it comes to cheese knives, more is more. That’s not only because you don’t want to mix the very different flavours of different cheeses by using the same knife, but because different cheeses really do require different knives.
There are knives for soft varieties, planes for slicing, cleavers for the harder cheeses, and even cheese forks to hold a block still while cutting it. And then don’t forget the spreaders for pastes or pâtés.
- The Research
Pairing wine and cheese isn’t like finding a match for that leftover sock in the washing — it’s an absolute fine art.
If you’re really serious about your cheese board, you’ll head to a trustworthy and knowledgeable cheesemonger. You’ll know the best ones, because they’ll cut you a whole wheel to order, they’ll have a steady stream of customers out of the door, and they’ll have a variety longer than a 7-year-old’s Christmas wish-list to Santa. And most importantly of all, they’ll know their stuff.
- The Quantity
Next, it’s important to get the quantity of cheese to buy right. That’s because while you don’t want to run out and leave your guests hungry, you also don’t want to buy too much — especially of the really expensive stuff!
So tally up your guest list, and plan to get enough. Typically each person may eat around 25 and 50 grams of cheese, but hopefully if you know your guests well enough, you’ll know their appetites too!
It’s then tempting to go crazy with cheese types — because there’s so much to choose from and you want your board to be a real talking point. But it’ll actually be a bigger success if you take a ‘less is more’ attitude — so don’t think you need any more than 4–6 different cheese types and concentrate instead on accompaniments and whether they’ll really make your wine selections pop.
- The Temperature
Any cheese connoisseur worth their salt will tell you that to max out the aroma and the flavour, you have to get the temperature just right.
So just like you’ll uncork your wine ahead of time to really enjoy it in all its glory, the same goes for your all-important cheese. Get your selections out of the fridge 30–60 minutes before your guests are due to arrive, so that they can be consumed at their brilliant best — at room temperature.
- The Nibbles
It may sound silly, but a cheese board isn’t a great cheese board if all it has on it is cheese.
That’s right: you need other nibbles to satisfy aesthetics and tickle those taste-buds, and they should be paired with the cheeses almost as well as the wine itself.
The classic non-cheese elements of a brilliant cheese board are dried and fresh fruits, nuts, honeys, olives, spiced meats, pickles and jams, but also consider spreads, chutneys, chocolate and even rosemary and thyme as the perfect garnishes.
Next, you’ll need to think about the carb stables, that is bread or crackers. Our advice is to stay true to the flavour of the cheese and the wine by avoiding any strongly flavoured ones. Buy some fresh, plain baguette or crostini and crunchy bread sticks, and then get creative about how you present them on the board.
The Final Word: Make It Look beautiful
They say we eat with our eyes, so before your guests arrive, spend some time to make that cheese board look like something you’d order from a 5-star room service.
The real pro-trick is to make the board look bountiful by filling up any spaces in the surface area. That’s right: with your hand-picked variety of beautiful cheeses and accoutrements, even as a cheese board novice you can put together a gourmet cheese board that looks brilliant — you’ll be amazed with what you come up with if you really let your instincts run free.
But most importantly, make sure you enjoy putting together a beautiful cheese board for your next quiet night or social event of the season. So have fun, and indulge your cheesiness!