Easy Entertaining: Host a Wine & Cheese Party

by Maris Callahan on August 24, 2011

If you love to eat and entertain in equal measure, a wine and cheese party is the perfect opportunity to play hostess.  On Saturday I wrote a guest post for the ladies at Big Girls Small Kitchen about how to host the perfect wine and cheese party. For those of you who didn’t see it, I wanted to share some of my tips here for anyone who wants to get their wine and cheese on this weekend.

If you’re serving wine, you’ll want to offer more than a few slices of cheese to sustain your guests through a night of Chardonnay-sipping. Serve finger foods and hors d’oeuvres that are fast, easy to prepare and won’t overwhelm your wine pairings.

Plan Ahead. When you’re planning on expanding your menu beyond wine and cheese, you’d probably rather spend your party sipping Sauvignon Blanc than sweating it out in the kitchen. To minimize stress, do the prep work ahead of time whenever possible. Decide if you’re going to plan your menu around the wines or the cheese. If the focus is the wine, choose wines first and pick the cheese and other dishes accordingly. If you’d rather emphasize the cheese, pick a few varieties to serve and pair them with appropriate wines.

Select the Cheese. When selecting cheese for a formal tasting, keep in mind that variety is key. Cheeses are typically categorized by type of milk: cow’s milk, sheep’s milk and goat’s milk. The different styles of cheese depend on a few factors: rind, color, and texture. Select a variety of cheeses and begin your tasting with the mildest cheese, such as a light, tangy chevre and progress to the sharpest or strongest cheese, like a full, ripe blue cheese.

When I buy cheese for parties, I typically buy 2-3 ounces of cheese per person, but if you aren’t serving much additional food, you might want to err on the side of caution and buy more than you think you need (and can you ever really have too much cheese? I think not).

Serve Your Cheese. Contrary to common belief, most cheeses are best at room temperature. Place your cheeses out up to three hours before your party and unwrap them to allow the flavors to full develop.

One of the easiest ways to decorate for a wine and cheese party is with the cheese itself. My favorite way to showcase cheese is on a simple wooden cutting board for a rustic look. Bonus: it cuts down on the amount of post-party dishes that you’ll have to do.

The Wine & Cheese Party Menu:

Fresh chevre with 2009 A to Z Sangiovese Rosé

Manchego Cheese with The Naked Grape Pinot Grigio or Nine Walks Sauvignon Blanc

Aged Gouda with Jacob’s Creek Pinot Noir

Parmigiano-Reggiano with Old Vine Red Zinfandel

Parmesan Almonds

Pistachio and Goat Cheese Dates

White Bean Bruschetta

{ 76 comments… read them below or add one }

Erica August 24, 2011 at 2:28 pm

So fun! I’m actually going to a wine party this weekend! I’m bringing two dishes!

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Lauren@LittleYellowKitchen August 24, 2011 at 2:51 pm

I literally JUST stopped in the middle of Minnesota to get cheese (chocolate cheese and maple cheddar!) and I picked up some wine in Toronto that I’m dying to get into. This post was perrrrfect timing for the pairing that will take place at my campsite this evening! P.S. This road trip is keeping me from staying up to date on blogs but I’ve missed some awesome stuff on yours! Can’t wait to catch up on it all :)

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Alana D August 24, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Oooohhh I can’t wait to have one of these! thanx for the tips!

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Sarah (everydaysapicnic) August 24, 2011 at 3:34 pm

I never used to be a big cheese fan, but as my tastes have matured I like it more and more, especially paired with some fruit.

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Sue/the view from great island August 24, 2011 at 3:40 pm

This is our favorite way to eat, we don’t even need a party. Your Pistachio Goat Cheese Dates will now be a part of our next wine and cheese night, great post!

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Lisa @ Tarte du Jour August 24, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Great tips Maris! I love a good wine and cheese party… simple but fun entertaining!

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Liz August 24, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Oh, such great tips! This would be perfect for my book club. Off to look at some of your links~

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Nami | Just One Cookbook August 24, 2011 at 4:28 pm

I always like your entertaining post. I’m not used to it and my husband is sometimes too easy going and he’s not too helpful when I ask “what do you think of this..and that…?” I don’t drink alcohol much, so it’s hard for me to prepare cheese which goes with specific wine. I can start off from this list. :-)

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Roz August 24, 2011 at 4:33 pm

This is great Maris. If we lived in the same city, you would SO be on the guest list for my wine and cheese parties!!! :) Have a good Wed.

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Kate (What Kate is Cooking) August 24, 2011 at 4:47 pm

It’s seriously my dream to host a wine and cheese party! Or a nut butter party :)

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juniakk @ mis pensamientos August 24, 2011 at 5:05 pm

wine and cheese party is always a hit. :D i wish i could still eat either/or!

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juniakk @ mis pensamientos August 24, 2011 at 5:07 pm

and i totally bought a wooden cheese board a month ago! good to know that they can be left out prior and they are best served at room temp!

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Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga August 24, 2011 at 5:33 pm

I love wine and cheese parties. I love all things wine and wine testing and tasting. So fun!

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Vanessa August 24, 2011 at 6:54 pm

A wonderful idea! I LOVE cheese.

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Blond Duck August 24, 2011 at 7:27 pm

I am a cheese fiend.

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Anne@frommysweetheart August 24, 2011 at 8:10 pm

Maris…this is such a wonderful post! I love all of your suggestions, but especially for the wine pairings! I am thinking of doing a post in the fall for a savory-sweet cheese board (cheese and fruits and nuts, etc)…..I may have to consult you before I do! LOVED this post! : )

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Greg August 24, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Awesome, awesome, awesome post. It’s like a bonus wine Wednesday. This is such a fun thing to do and if you read this, you can’t go wrong.

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Baking Serendipity August 24, 2011 at 9:45 pm

Wine and cheese is one of my favorite girls night centerpieces :) I love this post!

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mandy August 24, 2011 at 10:15 pm

I love wine and cheese parties. This summer there has been so much wine and cheese consumed its a bit ridiculous.

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Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella August 24, 2011 at 10:52 pm

Great tips-who doesn’t love a nice wine and cheese party! :D

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Keely aka The Richest Girl in Bondi August 24, 2011 at 11:26 pm

Wonderful tips (and totally agree that you can never have too much cheese). Always a welcome sight to see a cheese platter at a party.

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bellini August 25, 2011 at 4:26 am

I have been considering a wine and cheese party so this comes at just the right moment.

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Angie@Angiesrecipes August 25, 2011 at 5:31 am

Love wine tasting party!

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Sherilyn @ Wholepromise August 25, 2011 at 5:44 am

Wonderful wonderful tips to turn anyone into a fabulous host or hostess! Great post as always.

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Marina August 25, 2011 at 6:17 am

I love cheese :) I would love to have a party like that.

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Lynne @ 365 Days of Baking August 25, 2011 at 7:49 am

Great tips, Maris!
Wine + cheese + girlfriends = one GREAT evening!

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Rosa August 25, 2011 at 8:35 am

I love cheese and eating them with some good bread for breakfast or dinner (a tradition here in Switzerland).

Cheers,

Rosa

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Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. August 25, 2011 at 8:36 am

fun post! Can’t wait to check out some of these wines

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Sommer@ASpicyPerspective August 25, 2011 at 9:04 am

Such delicious fun! …until the next morning. ;)

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Rachel @ Not Rachael Ray August 25, 2011 at 10:02 am

You make me want to throw a party….tonight! Want to come? :)

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emily (a nutritionist eats) August 25, 2011 at 10:32 am

Literally my two favorite things. :)

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Claudia August 25, 2011 at 11:02 am

I had to visit and oh my – this is the way to go – my favorite way to entertain. Small bites and beautiful pairings!

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Delishhh August 25, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Love wine parties – we host one annually, but it is a wine tasting party. We usually have a theme for example Merlot and $15. You bring a box of your favorite Merlot for $15 and there are 12 couples. Each person goes around and tastes each bottle and then they are ranked. But the best part is that they get to go home with a box of 12 different merlots. It’s a blast.

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Shari @ The Daily Dish August 25, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Yum! I love wine + cheese parties. They’re definitely my favorite.

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kankana August 25, 2011 at 2:49 pm

I have never hosted party with wine and cheese. It would be a nice idea. I love drinking wine .. cooking with wine. One of my favorite pairing is Parmigiano-Reggiano with Old Vine Red Zinfandel

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Caroline August 25, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Wine and cheese parties are my favorite kind. I probably have a few too many of these…if that’s possible? Ha! I agree, finger foods are perfect for these types of parties.

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Linda August 25, 2011 at 5:26 pm

I so agree this is the way to entertain! I love having guests bring a wine I have not tried, one they love and the conversation and fun just revolves all around the drinking and eating!!

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katelin August 25, 2011 at 6:20 pm

my party this weekend isn’t just wine and cheese but both will definitely be present. i seriously cannot wait to buy cheese, haha.

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velva August 25, 2011 at 8:43 pm

This is very good advice for someone who wants to host a wine and cheese party. Great post.

Velva

P.S. I loved that you shared a photo of the blue cheese, I wish folks would not shy away from this fabulous cheese.

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Kay August 25, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Yum love wine and cheese parties!

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5 Star foodie August 25, 2011 at 9:06 pm

Excellent wine & cheese pairings and great tips!

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Courtney August 25, 2011 at 9:29 pm

We do this quite a bit, though we call it “Stinky Cheese Night.” Such a fun way to spend an evening with friends.

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Bee August 25, 2011 at 10:33 pm

I love wine, I love cheese, I love food, I love friends. Now if I only had my own place, this would be something I’d do on the regular, haha.

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Betty @ scrambled hen fruit August 26, 2011 at 12:36 am

Wine and cheese is perfect for an impromptu get-together. Nice pairings!

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Joanne August 26, 2011 at 6:35 am

Too much cheese = so not a real thing. Not enough cheese – ALWAYS THE CASE. Fabulous post!

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vianney/sweetlife August 26, 2011 at 8:01 am

great tips!! I love having wine and cheese parties, great excuse to try out new wines!!
stopped by guest post!! great post!!

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Lindsay @ Pinch of Yum August 26, 2011 at 8:11 am

My coworker recently brought some semi-fancy cheeses to a lunch get together and it was so perfect. Just bread and cheese. That’s all we had for an “appetizer” and it was soo so good! Great post!

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Aparna E. August 26, 2011 at 9:18 am

Awesome tips girl!! I did a wine tasting party theme for my sister’s bridal shower years ago. If I could do it all over again, I’d follow a lot of these tips!

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Kelly August 26, 2011 at 2:11 pm

I agree. Too much cheese is rarely a problem. I love this post since wine and cheese, especially together, are two of my favorite things. Great post as always Maris.

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Sawsan@chef in disguise August 26, 2011 at 2:45 pm

I love your entertaining posts Maris..such great tips

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Susan August 26, 2011 at 5:02 pm

This is my favorite kind of entertaining! I’m going to check out that recipe for Parmesan Almonds…

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Yudith @ Blissfully Delicious August 26, 2011 at 6:52 pm

I LOOOOOOVE cheese and wine parties :) Thanks for sharing your tips.

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newlywed August 26, 2011 at 7:35 pm

You have the best entertaining tips! Keep em coming!

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peachkins August 26, 2011 at 8:13 pm

sounds great. I’m planning to have a cheese and wine mini-party soon and it’s my first time. This is a great help. Thanks Maris!

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Lisa August 27, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Maris, I love a cheese and wine party – in fact, it’s probably the only time I drik (barring social situations where I’m nervous and need to relax with a sippy or 20 lol. If I were to pick any wine and cheese soiree, it would be yours (warning, though..I bogart the blues cheeses:) On another note..yep, you and I go way back..2008 to be precise. I still have one of the sauces I won in one of your giveaways! LOL

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Heavenly Housewife August 27, 2011 at 1:57 pm

A wine and cheese party is a great idea! At my house, I’d call it a “whine and cheese party” though LOL, cause thats the way this housewife rolls. I’m loving the sound of those pistachio and goat cheese dates, YUM!
*kisses* HH

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A Plum By Any Other Name August 27, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Maris, you always have great advice! I never though parmigiano reggiano would pair so well with cheeses but it’s one of my favorites. Glad to know it goes with red as well as it does with white! I had it with sparkling wine in Parma in Italy (I know … ) and I’ll never forget the “ah ha” moment I had. It was love at first sip.

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Gina (The Candid RD) August 28, 2011 at 6:05 am

What a great resource to have!! Thanks for this post!
I have never thrown a wine and cheese party, but that doesn’t mean I Won’t ever :) Great tips. I am also spoiled because I work with cheese mongers (spelling??) and wine experts, but still, this is super helpful.

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chopinandmysaucepan August 28, 2011 at 8:22 am

I agree this is one of the easiest and most fun way to entertain friends! I would throw in a few sausage rolls and meat pies too :)

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Nutmeg Nanny August 28, 2011 at 9:20 am

Great tips! I love throwing parties but rarely ever do. It makes it hard when we live so far away from all our friends.

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EA-The Spicy RD August 28, 2011 at 10:10 am

Love your ideas Maris, and can’t wait to try some of your wine and cheese suggestions! Those goat cheese pistachio dates are calling my name too!!!

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Maria @ Scandifoodie August 28, 2011 at 1:32 pm

I love love cheese and will keep these tips in mind for future – thanks!

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Melissa@IWasBornToCook August 28, 2011 at 7:29 pm

I love wine and cheese parties. Great tips!

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Alexandra (Veggin' Out in the Kitchen) August 29, 2011 at 6:24 am

You always have such great tips! Other than the fact that I’m a little too young for wine, a wine and cheese party sounds like so much fun! Maybe I could make it a cheese party ;)

<3 <3

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Nadia August 29, 2011 at 12:55 pm

My favorite kind of party! However, it’s also my vice, too, because I consume 5,000 calories of cheese. Great tips, I always leave the cheese out at room temp. :)

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Kate August 29, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Yum! I love wine and cheese too. I love eveyr type of cheese and seem to never tire of it!

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Tanvi@SinfullySpicy August 29, 2011 at 4:18 pm

I dont remember holding a cheese & wine party but have been to one..its so much fun..thoroughly enjoyed your post..always nice to learn something new.

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Sippitysup August 29, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Two of my favorites join together for a fantastic evening. I love you wine and cheese (is bread invited too?) GREG

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Juliana August 29, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Great tips Maris…wine and cheese party…sure one of my favorite kind of party :-)
Hope you have a fantastic week ahead :-)

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Katie@Cozydelicious August 29, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Such great tips! Wine and cheese parties are such fun, and I love your pairings. I have to make those parmesan almonds!

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Dana August 29, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Thanks for the great tips! I’m pretty sure I could live off of wine and cheese, so this sounds like the perfect type of party for me!

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Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen August 29, 2011 at 8:40 pm

My favorite kind of party, great tips!

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Shilpa August 29, 2011 at 10:56 pm

That’s a beautiful and very informative post. I am not big on cheese as it doesn’t agree with my digestion at most times :-) but am still going to bookmark this for future dinner parties – great info. thank you.

-Shilpa

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Jenny at Baking Devils August 30, 2011 at 4:53 am

What a fabulous idea for a party. I shall plan this for one evening when I have my girlfriends over for a relaxing spa evening! Thanks this is perfect! Jenny

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Georgia @ The Comfort of Cooking August 30, 2011 at 9:52 am

I’m thinking of starting a neighborhood cooking club in my community and this would be a great idea for one of the theme nights! What a great post and interesting ideas… plus, I could always use an excuse to pop a bottle of Prosecco, hah! Thanks for sharing and inspiring me with something new, Maris.

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Karriann Graf September 9, 2011 at 8:46 am

What a great guide! Happy Entertaining!

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