With the proliferation of the world’s wines at our doorsteps, a gourmet cheese counter at Publix and locally made Wright’s Dairy artisanal cheeses, perhaps it is time to reintroduce wine and cheese parties for the holidays.
On the plus side, no cooking is required for a wine and cheese gathering, and everything can be purchased with little assembly required. On the negative side is the responsibility of gathering and staging the elements for the event.
Pairing wine and cheese is not rocket science. Like with other food and wine pairings there are no hard and fast rules. Strong cheeses usually work better with stronger wines, while delicate cheeses zing with something lighter. Consider these prep steps in staging a wine and cheese event:
1. Assemble an array of cheeses at least a day before your event. Plan to serve five or six different types — Velveeta does not count. Also assemble an array of different crackers and breads to accompany the cheeses served.
2. Remove cheeses from the refrigerator the morning of your event. Unwrap cheeses and cover loosely with a slightly damp dish cloth to keep cheese moist while it reaches room temperature.
3. Display cheeses and the accompanying wines at convenient locations for your guests. The idea here is that each cheese with its accompanying wine or wines should occupy its own little vignette. Place pitchers of water and dump buckets at strategic locations so guests can rinse their glasses as they move from vignette to vignette.
4. Invest in cheese markers, little ceramic tags on which the offered cheeses can be identified.
Consider these tried and true wine and cheese combinations:
⠂Parmigianino Reggiano. Offer a big wedge allowing guests to chip off chunks with a provided knife. Serve with 34 Degrees Savory Crisps available in the deli sections of Publix and Wal-Mart. If Parmigianino is served unadorned, a good Italian wine like a Zenato Amarone 2008 della Valpolicella is recommended, $65 at Tyson Fine Wines and Things in Golden Springs, or the less expensive Zenato Ripasso at both Tyson’s and the Wine Cellar on Quintard. Ripasso is made from the second pressing of grapes used for Amarone.
Parmigianino is also good when shaved into thin slivers with a vegetable peeler. Arrange mound of shavings on plate, drizzle with honey and sprinkle toasted walnuts over the top. Serve on a 34 Degrees crisp with Sauternes like Chateau L’ Ermitage, $27.50 at Tyson’s. A sweet riesling also works with this combo.
⠂Goat cheese. A log of creamy plain or herb-infused goat cheese served along side toasted mini party rye bread pairs beautifully with a sauvignon blanc. I like Joel Gott 2012 available at both Tyson’s and The Wine Cellar in the $11 range.
French Brie. Serve a wedge with toasted slices of Martin and Teddy Paudrups’ French baguette from their Artisanal Baked Goods located at 1702 Quintard in Anniston. Dress up the presentation by sprinkling toasted almond slivers, golden raisins and dried apricot chunks around the perimeter of the wedge or wheel of Brie. Serve with your favorite champagne or a less costly sparkly Italian Prosecco or Spanish Cava.
⠂Smoked Gouda. Surround wedge with one of Nabisco’s new takes on an old favorite, the Triscuit, in brown rice, sweet potato or roasted onion flavor accompanied by a bold Zinfandel like Biale’s Founding Fathers 2011 Zinfandel for $36.25 At Tyson’s.
⠂Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar. Surround with Ritz crackers. Serve Major Grey’s Chutney on the side accompanied by Robert Mondavi 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet $24.99 at Publix.
⠂Roquefort, Stilton or American bleu cheeses. Serve with Carr’s Whole Wheat Crackers. Surround with toasted walnuts and pear slices and serve with a real port like Grahams Six Grape for $26.50 at Tyson’s or Sandeman Founders Reserve Port in the $22 range at both Winn-Dixie and the Wine Cellar. Chocolate also works well with port.
Email Pat Kettles at email@example.com