Setting the table for a wine and cheese party can seem daunting, but with a few simple steps, you can create an elegant and inviting atmosphere that your guests will love. The key to a successful wine and cheese party is to create a comfortable, relaxed environment that encourages guests to mingle and try new things. Whether it’s a casual get-together with friends or a more formal affair with colleagues, the way you set the table can make all the difference. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the steps to create a stunning display of wines, cheeses, and accompaniments, including tips on selecting the proper glassware, utensils, and decorations. So, let’s get started and learn how to set the table for a wine and cheese party that your guests will always remember.
The essential to set the table for a wine and cheese party
You can arrange the cheeses for a cheese and wine party in a self-serve buffet-style area. However, separating the wine and cheese combinations into multiple tables is better if you have many guests.
To set the table for a wine and cheese party, there are a few key elements to keep in mind:
- Arrange the cheese, charcuterie, antipasti, fruit, honey, nuts, crackers, bread, mustard and other stuff on a platter or board. Label the cheeses so guests can find their favourites.
- Ensure each person has enough plates, glasses, and cutlery, including cheese knives, cocktail forks, and small appetizer plates. You will only use the forks to take cheese from the plates and to hold bread from the baskets.
- Choose the right glass for the wine you’re serving. Use white wine glasses and red wine glasses when needed. Crystal clear glasses are best because they help wine’s visual colour tasting.
- When you offer cheese, provide a separate knife for each cheese, and encourage guests to avoid mixing the knives to avoid combining the cheese’s flavours.
- Have toothpicks, salt and pepper shakers or grinders, enough napkins, and small plates nearby.
- Usually, a nice-looking decoration, such as tablecloths and a unique centrepiece, improve the party. You can put candles or flowers on the table to create a welcoming and intimate atmosphere for guests to enjoy the wine and cheese party.
Defining the purpose
A cheese plate can serve as a quick & satisfying meal, a bountiful Hors d’œuvre or a snack. It is also suitable as an appetizer before dinner, an introduction to the main course, or a tasteful after-dinner course. You can pair different types of cheese with it depending on its purpose. If you eat it before dinner, choose mild and light flavours — an introduction to the following tastes. After dinner, choose cheeses that are sweet, rich, and buttery. If you have it with a cocktail before dinner, remember that it can fill you up, so serve it in limited quantities and choose a variety of cheeses.
How do you arrange the cheese platters or board?
The board is customizable!
To make your cheeseboard look as good as it tastes, don’t just put the cheese on the board. It’s important to remember that we also enjoy food with our eyes. Instead, add fruit like grapes, pears or crisp apples, or stuffed fruits like dates or fruit jams. You can also add other things like chutneys, pickled things, olives, nuts, chocolate, different types of crackers, and herbs. Arrange everything on the board so that it looks good and is easy to eat. If your budget allows, add more expensive items like caviar, smoked fish, smoked or cured meats like prosciutto, dry salami, or pancetta.
If you have more than three types of cheese, use multiple boards. Put the softest ones on one board, medium ones on the next, and the strongest ones on the last board. This will be helpful for beginners. Arrange the cheeses by flavour, starting with the mild ones and finishing with the strong ones.
The way you lay out these boards doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s better to make it look natural than too symmetrical. Let it flow organically. You aim to fill the platter as much as possible without any empty spaces. It should look like there is an abundance of food. Focus on using different colours and combinations of food. Don’t just use beige food. Instead, include orange and red (meats and fruit and crackers), greens and yellows (pickles, olives, dips, nuts). Throw it all together and add some herbs on top as garnish.
The first step is to pick a base for your cheese board
A cheese board serves different types of cheese along with snacks like crackers, fruits, and nuts. It can be made of different materials like a wooden board, bamboo, marble, slate, straw mat, a flat wicker basket or even a large platter. You can use whatever you have at home to make a cheese board, which will still look good. Just make sure to put it where everyone can reach it.
To make a cheese platter, use a magic formula that involves a 3x3x3 setup.
- First, choose three different types of cheese.
- Then, for the perfect cheese platter, you’ll also want to include three savoury extras. This can comprise one charcuterie (cold cuts) or seafood, one salty nibble and condiment, and one nut.
- Add three sweet extras like honey or jam or maple, fresh fruits, dried fruits or vegetables or glazed nuts for the finishing touches.
- Remember the crackers and bread. You can also add any additional items you like.
Make your cheese board interesting by choosing cheeses of different sizes, shapes, and tastes. Arrange them in a way so that the subtle cheeses are tasted first. People usually start eating from the left or closest part of the board first and then move to the back. Don’t worry about the soft or hard cheese; start with the mildest one and then move to the strongest. This way, people won’t get tired of the taste.
Celery and water can be used to clean the taste between each cheese.
When you put cheese on a plate, spread it evenly but at different heights and spots. Don’t put too much on the plate because it will be hard for people to cut the cheese they want. Arrange the cheeses with enough space between them so people can easily take the cheese they like.
Chunk or cut cheese – just one serving
Refrain from mixing strong, smelly cheeses with mild, soft cheeses.
Old and crunchy cheeses like Gouda, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and farmhouse-aged cheddars look great when cut into big pieces on a cheese board. Small pieces of cheese are also very tempting for guests.
When you cut the cheese, you don’t have to cut it into individual pieces – just cut one serving and put it next to the wheel or on top to show what a serving looks like. Keep the cheese as whole or in large pieces as possible without touching each other.
Try the cheese before your guests arrive so you can taste it too.
This is another reason to cut the cheese before everyone gets there!
Charcuterie (cold cuts) and Seafood
Always choose various kinds of charcuterie and cheeses with different flavours to ensure everyone likes something. It’s also good to select meats and cheeses in different colours to make the boards look nice. If you only want to use one kind of meat or cheese, you can arrange it in two other parts of the board to make it seem like there are two options.
Salty nibbles and Condiments
Put the olives and other antipasti on the cheese board in small pretty-looking bowls. They taste good with cheese and do not have to be of the best quality. They are great for snacking and will give you variety. Your board should be half full at this point.
Sweet things, fruits and Vegetables
Add sweet treats like jams, honey, maple syrup, fresh fruits, and veggies. Let people grab them with their hands to eat.
Nuts and crunchy snacks
Adding dried fruits and toasted nuts to your cheeseboard is a great way to make it more interesting! Plus, it can also fill up any empty areas on the board. After trying the cheese, crackers and cold cuts, your guests will appreciate having something crunchy to snack on. Try incorporating sweet and salty pairings with various types of cheese for even more flavour.
Fill empty spaces on your cheeseboard with dried fruit and nuts – they’ll make it look and taste great!
Crackers and bread
Provide crackers and bread slices to scoop things up. Serve the bread in slices, pieces, or whole. Put out baskets of different types of bread, like sliced baguettes, bread sticks, and crackers of various shapes and sizes.
It’s good to have a variety of tastes and textures. Pick bread or crackers that do not have a strong taste which could clash with the cheese. Flavoured bread or crackers with garlic or sesame seeds may cover up the flavour of the cheese. But bread with walnuts, dried fruit or olives is best for cheese pairing.
You can make some Fast2eat bread recipes that are great for this occasion.
Creamy cheeses, savoury dips & spreads
Serve soft, creamy cheeses, dips, and spreads in small bowls next to bread and crackers. Having savoury dips and spreads is good, but it’s up to you.
Don’t be afraid to try new things on your cheese plate.
Dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan options
Ask about dietary restrictions before your event. Some people have specific diets or allergies, so knowing if anyone can’t have certain foods is essential. Don’t make food that guests can’t eat. Try vegan cheese options at health food stores like Whole Foods for guests with different preferences.
If needed, add Dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan options.
How to use fancy cheese knives?
I love having cheese and wine, even if it’s not a party. Sometimes I make a special dinner board instead of a whole meal. I have a lot of cheese and wine tools in my cabinets, so I can do this whenever I want. It’s good to know what each one is for. Each knife has its use to give you the best experience.
I made a guide to help you understand what they are for, so you can choose the best one for any situation.
What glasses should I use for different types of wine?
You can drink wine from any container, like a wine glass, coffee mug, mason jar, or Dixie cup. But if you want to taste it better, specific glasses work better than others and improve the taste of wine. It’s nicer to have special glasses for red, white or sparkling wine and smaller ones for sherry or port. Bring the glasses that will be used to the table, and remember to also have glasses for water.
If you need help determining which cup is best for your wine, check out our guide to learn which one to use.
Additional wine tools and accessories to consider
To improve your drinking and serving experience, consider using other tools and accessories for wine that go beyond the basics.
A wine refrigerator, also known as a wine cooler, is a specialized appliance designed to store wine at the ideal temperature. Unlike traditional refrigerators, wine refrigerators are designed to maintain a consistent temperature range of 7-18°C/45-65°F. This range is perfect for the long-term storage of wine as it provides a stable environment that helps preserve the wine’s quality over time. Many wine refrigerators feature adjustable shelving and humidity controls, allowing you to tailor the storage space to your specific needs. Some models may include special features such as LED lighting, UV protection, and Wi-Fi connectivity. Whether you are a novice wine enthusiast or a seasoned collector, a wine refrigerator can be essential in preserving and serving your favourite wines at their best.
A wine aerator is a device used to enhance the flavour and aroma of wine by allowing it to breathe. The aeration process involves exposing the wine to oxygen, which helps soften tannins and release aromatic compounds. A wine aerator infuses bubbles directly into the wine as it is poured through the device, which allows it to aerate the wine rapidly. This can result in a smoother and more complex tasting experience. Wine aerators are typically made of glass or plastic. They are easy to use and a great addition to any wine lover’s collection.
Tannic wines, such as reds, benefit from aeration.
Aeration exposes the wine to air, softening the tannins and improving the flavour.
A wine thermometer measures the wine’s temperature to ensure it is adequately served, which is crucial for optimal taste and aroma. Different types of wine need to be served at different temperatures. Sparkling wine should be served cold at 4-10°C/40-50°F to keep the bubbles small. Whites and rosés should be served at 10-15°C/50-60°F, and reds should be served slightly below room temperature, at 15-21°C/60-70°F. Some thermometers use infrared technology to check the temperature without touching the wine, while others are put into the bottle. Overall, a wine thermometer is helpful for any wine lover who wants to enjoy their wine at its best.
You can use a decanter to improve the taste and texture of the wine. This is a clear glass container with a narrow neck, a broad base, and a bulbous body. When you pour the wine from the bottle into the decanter, it allows air to come into contact with the wine, which releases aromas and enhances the flavour. This also helps to remove sediment that collects on the bottom of the bottle, which can change the taste and texture of the wine. Younger bottles need as little as 30-60 minutes to breathe, while older bottles need 2-3 hours.
To decant, slowly pour the wine into the decanter, being careful not to pour any sediment.
When pouring, hold the decanter by its neck and pour 1/3 to 1/2 of the glass.
Swirl to see how it moves in the glass. The denser and richer the wine, the longer it will linger.
If you don’t drink all the wine in the bottle, use a wine stopper to save it for later. A stopper that creates a vacuum seal will help slow down how fast air affects the taste of the wine. Depending on the wine, it will stay fresh for up to 7 days with a stopper.
Remember to take your cheese out of the refrigerator
For the best flavour, serve cheese at room temperature. Like ice cream that tastes better when soft, cheese’s flavours blossom as it reaches room temperature.
Remove it from the fridge and let it warm for an hour before serving. This makes it easier to arrange on your board. Think of it like decanting wine. It helps to release all the flavours. Refrain from serving cheese too cold from the fridge – it won’t taste as good.
Some useful advice
Keep your cheese platter simple, and don’t worry about making it look perfect. Instead, put together a board with a clean, wooden cutting board and casually arrange the ingredients. You don’t have to put all the fruit or meats in one corner – spread them out and fill in the spaces so everyone can easily access everything.
When making a cheese board, serve an odd number of cheeses and use a different knife for each type. Serve each cheese with its accompanying condiment. This will make the presentation better.
When you serve cheese and wine, write down their names and a few descriptions so you don’t have to repeat them. Use poetic adjectives or mention their origin/history.
If you want to serve pungent, stinky-socks cheese, place it on a separate plate so it doesn’t overpower more delicate ones.
This article is part of “How to plan an unforgettable wine & cheese party”
These tips are from my own experience;
I’m neither a party organizer, a sommelier, nor a turophile (a cheese connoisseur).
I just love cheese, wine and spending time with family and friends.
I hope my easy tips will give you the confidence to host a wine and cheese party with a handful of close friends.
If you use my tips for your next Wine & Cheese party, please comment below and remember to take a picture, tag @Fast2eat.com and use #Fast2eat so that we can both marvel at how easy it was!
Thank you so much for reading, commenting, following and sharing.
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