Some calendars show July 25 as National Wine and Cheese Day. That made me think about this popular idea.
What about the ubiquitous wine and cheese? We have a gathering and call it a wine and cheese. Turns out it’s not about either one. And there’s more than wine and cheese to it. It’s mostly a gathering where food and drink are served. Yes, wine and cheese are in there somewhere.
Suppose you really do want to get together and have wine and cheese. Well it’s certainly a good thing to do and not very difficult. What’s important to remember is that it’s not a wine tasting nor about cheese. It’s a social interchange where wine and cheese are consumed.
Let’s talk about cheese first.
There are basically six categories most all cheeses fall in. The first one people usually choose is what’s known as bloomy or soft-ripened cheeses. The most popular example is brie.
Washed rind cheeses come next. These are the stinky ones and can be mostly avoided for a typical gathering like this.
The major group we pick from is referred to as semi-soft or medium-firm. Cheeses like Gouda, Gruyere and provolone all belong here. Most of the package examples like cheddar, Jack, Muenster and low-moisture mozzarella are part of this overall class. They are perfect for a wine and cheese.
Parmesan and some aged selections form part of the hard cheese group. Blue cheeses come next. Things like gorgonzola, Stilton and Roquefort are popular examples.
Fresh cheeses make up the last group. Some of these are found packed in liquid. Mozzarella, feta, marscapone and goat cheese are found here.
There are going to be times when a certain cheese belongs to two different groups. Don’t let all that bother you. For the most part, this list won’t come out every time you’re trying to set up a wine and cheese event.
Three is a good number of cheeses to have as a basic selection. A cheese spread like one made with cream cheese is a good addition. That’s it. Simple and uncomplicated.
Get a soft-ripened cheese, a good cheddar and another favorite and you have all you need. A blue cheese is a nice third choice as well. This isn’t a cheese tasting.
Wine selection is pretty simple. This is not the place for your best bottle or something strange. Sauvignon blanc is an excellent white. So is Riesling. A simple Chardonnay or pinot grigio are also good.
Light reds with plenty of fruit are just right. Pinot noir, Sangiovese and Tempranillo go really well. So does Beaujolais.
Bubbles are good, but save your Champagne and choose a cava. Even a slightly sweet Prosecco is fine. Rosé is always good. A crisp dry version from Provence is perfect. Sometimes port or sherry are an interesting addition.
How many wines? Two or three are fine. This isn’t a wine tasting.
As to what else to serve, follow the same plans above — keep it simple. Fruit goes well with wine and cheese. Both fresh and dried are fine. Nuts are good. So are little pickles. Olives are a must. Ones without pits are easier.
Charcuterie is popular these days. A couple of cured meats are fine. Maybe a tasty little spread or two as well.
Then there’s bread and crackers. Follow the same rule. Simple. Flavored crackers detract from cheese. Use carefully. Save the goldfish for your grandchildren. Grilled bread looks good.
Plain and sparkling water are perfect and maybe a flavored one. That’s it for beverages.
A wine and cheese party can be a fun time. People see people and have some nice food and drink. Just don’t forget — keep it simple.
Jim Sikes is an Opelika resident, a food, wine and restaurant consultant, and a columnist for the Opelika-Auburn News. Contact him on Facebook at In the Kitchen with Chef Jim
Jim Sikes is an Opelika resident; a food, wine and restaurant consultant; and a columnist for the Opelika-Auburn News. Contact him on Facebook at In the Kitchen with Chef Jim.
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