If there's one major silver lining to the days getting shorter and colder, it's that we just love a cosy night in. Huddling around a table with a big glass of wine and a few friends is, quite possibly, the best way to spend an evening in the build up to Christmas – or New Year's Eve, come to think of it.
And a dedicated cheese and wine night couldn't be much easier to organise – with no cooking required, all that's needed is a bit of know-how on the tastiest pairings to offer guests.
So, where to start? Don't stress, because we have everything planned out for you, with our step-by-step guide to your perfect wine and cheese night.
1. know your cheeses
Generally it's advised that for a fantastic cheeseboard, you'll need between three to five cheeses, of varying tastes and textures – and to aim for one ounce per person, per cheese. You will probably want to include a strong, intense blue cheese, like Stilton or Gorgonzola. Add to that a semifirm option, like a cheddar, or a Spanish manchego (perfect if you're serving olives as well).
A super-aged cheese, like Parmesan, is delicious served in small chunks for guests to pick at – and don't forget to reserve a space for a mild, creamy cheese like Camembert or Brie. By including one of each, you'll have ticked all boxes.
2. Know your wines (sort of)
You really don't need to be a wine connoisseur to throw a cheese and wine party. But it helps to do a little research as to what cheese works with what wine – for example, this Extra Special Barossa Chardonnay has notes of pear and white peach, with hints of cashew and lemon curd. Fruity and crisp, it would pair beautifully with a Gouda or another hard cheese.
If you prefer a red wine, try serving this Extra special Chianti Riserva with a cheddar or nutty, aged manchego. Port lovers can tuck into a good wedge of Stilton – the sweet tipple is a great match for strong cheeses.
And let's not forget about sparkling wine – after all, what pre-Christmas bash would be complete without a glass of bubbly? Take a geographical approach and serve ice-cold Prosecco (or Nosecco) with Parmesan nibbles (try these Parmesan and Poppy Seed Twists) or Cava with manchego. Finally, creamy French Camembert works well with a crisp glass of Champagne. Sorted!
3. get prepared
Around 1-2 hours before your guests arrive, get the cheeses out of the fridge – this will help those flavours develop. At the same time, make sure the wine is in the fridge so that it's properly chilled.
Divvy up the cheeses onto different boards and position them around the room, so that your guests aren't crowding around one platter – and don't forget those essentials like knives, small plates and napkins. It might be worth identifying each cheese with a small namecard, too.
4. More is more
If you're going to throw a cheese and wine party, you may as well do it to the best of your budget and ability. When putting together a board, make sure to space out each cheese, before filling the gaps with fruit, nuts and crackers or bread.
Snip grapes into small bunches so they're easily grabbable, and set next to raisins, dried cranberries or apricots. Cut figs into quarters and pile them up with chunky slices of fresh apple.
Provide a varity of biscuits and oatcakes to suit every taste – this assortment of Extra Special Biscuits For Cheese should have you covered. Toast slices of baguette or fruit and nut loaf, and add vegetable crudites as another accompaniment option. Finally, decant chutneys and honey into little ramekins for easy dipping.