A proper cheese-tasting is not only a great way to entertain visitors, host a girls’ night out or get-together for a special occasion, it’s also a great way to learn more about the different types of cheeses that exist. The first step is — you guessed it — sourcing cheese. Plan on serving 4 to 6 ounces of cheese per average guest, more for those gourmands of your acquaintance who just love to eat. Spread the total amongst 5 or 6 different varieties. You don’t have to go crazy. In fact, instead of giving you a list of haute cheeses, we’re going to say to start with a sharp cheddar cheese. It’s a great anchor to any cheese board and easily affordable. Then buy cheeses that you like, along with a few new varieties as well. The night is supposed to be fun for you the host as well, so experiment. Presentation is the next critical ingredient. Get out your fun and funky serving surfaces to use as eye-catching displays for the cheese and other fixings. Cheese is a symphony to the tastebuds on its own, but it’s even better when paired with a great cracker or fresh fruit. To keep things interesting, there should be a variety of accompaniments to pair with the cheese. Now, you’re probably wondering if there’s a proper way to taste cheese and the answer is YES. Sniff, size it up, slice and savor. You may also want to print out a cheese-tasting guide for your guests, but you don’t have to. Just remember cheese is at its tastiest at room temperature (and with good company!) so take it out of the fridge at least an hour before the tasting. Cutting a few slices off a big chunk encourages your guests to start tasting as soon as they arrive.
There’s actually a scientific reason why wine and cheese taste so good when eaten together. Astringent foods such as wine and fatty ingredients like cheese strike a balance on our palates because they’re opposites on the sensory spectrum. Soft and creamy cheeses such as ricotta, mozzarella, goat cheese and feta or go well with light wines light wines that have berry or fruit undertones such as sweet riesling, pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, dry rose and sparkling wines. Hard block cheeses that are aged to perfection and contain nutty undertones such as aged cheddar, parmigiano-reggiano, aged monterey jack, aged gouda or asiago go well with merlot, cabernet sauvignon and vintage champagne. While the bold, salty and savory blues — gorgonzola, stilton, cambozola and roquefort — pair great with red port and sauternes.