The holiday season is a time for celebration with family and friends. Although majority of your entertaining resources will likely be focused on producing that memorable Christmas day dinner, not every get-together needs to feature a multi-course feast. It’s easy to play the perfect hostess (or host) with just a few bottles of wine and some thoughtfully chosen cheeses. Together, they’re an excellent match for all manner of holiday-season entertaining.
Choose cheeses with different colours, coatings and forms that will engage your guests. A soft goat’s cheese coated in cranberry or light herbs will add some colour and dimension to your cheese board and will stand up to an intense and fruity red wine like California’s Meiomi Pinot Noir. Other accompaniments like fruits (such as pears, apples and apricots), jams and chutneys, interesting breads and crackers, and nuts also create visual interest and add intriguing tasting possibilities.
Opting for cheeses with varying tastes and textures entices your guests to try something new. Sparkling wine, like Ruffino Prosecco, is a flexible wine to partner with cheese because the bubbles cleanse your palate with each sip. Pair it with semi-soft cheeses like fontina, Oka and mozzarella, or even a fresh goat’s cheese; they’ll be crowd favourites at any gathering you host.
In general, when pairing wine and cheese, you want to balance the intensity of the cheese with the intensity of the wine. Strong cheese flavours, for example, need to be matched by strong wine flavours so that they won’t overpower one another. Inniskillin’s Vidal icewine is a perfect—and perfectly wintry—vintage to enjoy with a strong, distinctive blue cheese. They’re a salty-sweet match made in heaven.
Cheeses are best served at cool room temperatures (17 to 19 degrees Celsius). When it’s cold outside and big reds like Jackson-Triggs Reserve Meritage are on the table, try to bring your aged cheddar or Beemster out of the fridge at least an hour before you plan to serve.
If serving cheese at a dinner party, opt for individual plates of three to five cheeses as a bridge before dessert. Including a small taste (15 grams or so) of a smoked cheese like a gouda or cheddar works well with the rich and opulent style of Robert Mondavi Private Selection bourbon barrel–aged Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon, before you end the evening with something sweet.