Whether you’re a guest at a friend’s event or planning your own, there are a few tricks to pulling off a successful wine and cheese party:
Don’t skimp on the cheese!
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not a subtle art picking out the proper cheeses to serve at a wine-and-cheese party. Just make sure you have at least three different options; one soft (like an aged triple-cream brie), one medium (Like Manchego or chevre), and one hard (like parmigiano reggiano). You’re going to have a range of different wines to taste, so don’t worry too much about which wines pair best with which cheeses. Let your guests experiment!
It’s also helpful to have labels for the cheese you pick, in case attendees are not a fan of bleu cheese or goat cheese. Though in either of these cases, these people are not your friends. Bleu cheese and goat cheese are delicious, and perfect for wine-pairing.
Also, keep plenty of cheese-knives ready! Disposable plastic knives and forks are not helpful when trying to grab a reasonable portion off a wedge of cheddar. Dinner knives are better, just as long as the blades are sharp and strong enough to handle the hardest of the cheese you have selected.
Don’t skimp on the glassware!
A couple of my friends recently threw a wine-and-cheese party, and this event was an example of *perfection.* Not only did they have enough glassware for everyone, but they had laid out the proper glassware next to the wines to which they correspond. All the flutes were next to the bubbles, the white wine glasses were next to the Chardonnay and Soave, and the red glasses were next to the (decanted!) red wines. There’s a reason to register for crystal stemware at your wedding, and this is it—put the glasses to good use!
Even if you’re hosting a far more informal gathering, make sure you have enough glasses (or GoVinos, those reusable plastic wine cups) for everyone. You don’t want to be digging out your Styrofoam cups for the people who show up an hour late.
Don’t skimp on the wine!
This is, obviously, the most important part of a wine party—the wine! Don’t restrict yourself to two or three bottles if ten people are showing up. Each person is going to want to taste every wine, and unless you have automatic stoppers on all the bottles, those “tastes” may get pretty heavy-handed. Think about your guests’ drinking habits and plan accordingly. I usually find that having at least one bottle for every two people is a good starting point, though you should adjust accordingly.
Wine parties are the perfect time to expand your palate, too. If you’re restricting the selection at all (only red wines, only Italian wines, only wines under $15), pick out bottles that you haven’t already tasted. Get a South African Chenin Blanc, get a wine with a crazy label, get a varietal that you can’t pronounce. This is the opportunity to pick up wines you’ve never explored, so don’t go with the same old (delicious) wines you know.
Have cleaning supplies on hand.
This is a bit more mundane, but at some point, someone is going to spill some wine or break a glass. Have club soda, salt, microfiber cloths, broom and dustpan or vacuum, and Wine Away on hand to get rid of any accidents as quickly as possible. And seriously, Wine Away. It’s my best friend. It smells like orange oil and has gotten an entire bottle’s-worth of Rioja out of my white carpet before. It’s the best. But whatever your method of avoiding wine stains, make sure you have the necessary items ready so you can get any spills cleaned and everyone can return to the merriment of wine tasting!
It may seem a bit obvious, but a wine party should be fun! Wine is meant to be shared with friends as an addendum to good conversation, good food, and good experiences. Don’t think that you have to make the party formal or stuffy because you’re serving wine instead of beer or liquor. Set the mood with your favorite music, a fun spread of small bites, and a casual atmosphere, and people won’t feel like they need to keep their pinkies out and consistently adjust their monocles. If you and your guests relax and have fun, the wine party will be a success!