Cheese and wine parties are making a comeback! A good job too; because this type of simple, hassle-free entertaining is just the thing to get your Christmas social life going and you don’t have to be anywhere near an oven…more time to party.
What could be simpler than this? There’s no cooking to do (unless you want to) preparation is minimal (unless you make it otherwise) and everyone knows what to expect. It is what it says it is. Although, at Christmas, why not introduce some games to your party that will sort out the big cheeses from the hard cheeses?
To help keep costs down ask every guest to bring a bottle of wine and a piece of cheese. To make it more fun, tell your friends that the theme is ‘Christmas cheese and wine around the world’ and get them to wear an outfit that is a clue to the country of origin of the cheese or wine they’ve brought along.
Either use one large table or several smaller ones. Plain white linen looks good and doesn’t detract from the main event! Have ice buckets and ice to keep the chilled wines cool and provide bottles of chilled sparkling water to quench thirst. For serious wine tasters, a spittoon is essential, but for most Christmas party quaffers…a taxi’s probably more likely!
If you are having a ‘Cheese and Wine around the World’ theme, why not have a table for each region? Decorate accordingly! Chill white wine and rosé for at least two hours before serving. Open red wine about an hour before serving.
One 75cl bottle of wine should provide 6-8 glasses and I would suggest that 4-6 is a reasonable number of different wine types to serve. Allow about 100g of cheese per person, served with water biscuits, oat cakes or crusty bread. A few small bowls of plain crisps and walnuts go well too, along with grapes, apples, pears and celery to compliment the cheese and refresh the palate. Serve at least as many different types of cheese as wine. Again, using the suggested theme, serve wines and cheeses from the same region together to fully appreciate both.
Sparkling wine is definitely the best choice to serve your guests as they arrive; it promotes a party feeling without clogging the palate. Ideally, this wine will be served in long elegant flutes. To break the ice, encourage your more extrovert guests to mimic TV wine personalities: soon everyone will be “Whooshing and effervescing with more than a hint of dark fruitiness…”
When everyone is in party mood (and not taking themselves too seriously) suggest that they try the white wines. These should be served in an elegant, slim and slightly fluted, glass. Pour enough wine to no more than half way up the glass, preferably a little less. If you have a resident expert, they can talk guests through the process of swirling the wine in the glass to admire the colour and depth of the wine, followed by getting a good old noseful of its bouquet, then a sip to explore the flavours on the palate. Evidence of aftertaste will be discussed too.
Get people to talk about their opinions of the wine-it could become very interesting as the evening progresses! Get all the tasters to give points for each wine. If they are in fancy dress, encourage ‘wine talk’ in silly accents. It’s Christmas! Or you could just sip quietly and nibble some cheese…
Next, the red wines! Serve these in large, bowl-type, glasses. (Watch your goldfish bowl – there’s always one comedian…) Big bold wine should be served with strong cheese to bring out the best in both and make sure there’s plenty of chilled water on offer; this is thirsty work.
Count up the scores for each wine and declare a winner in each class and do the same for the cheese and the best/worst-dressed wine taster…
If you intend to serve a fortified wine, this is the time to do it. Otherwise, let the party continue (or serve coffee and send them all home)!