You may be thinking, “Can we pull this one off?” Don’t be intimidated by all you’ve heard and read about wine. Rather, be inspired by the warmth and style it is sure to lend to your bridal shower! And when presented with other gourmet selections, wine and cheese will allow you to host an elegant, yet intimate gathering right in your own home. What you save on a party venue, you can splurge on a truly inviting spread.
So let’s get to it! Just take your cue from our suggestions below.
Cheeses & Wines: Finding the Perfect Pairs
There is really no right or wrong way to select the cheeses for your party. But, since cheeses vary widely in their flavors, textures, and aromas, pairing different varieties with the appropriate wines can be quite tricky. We suggest, then, that you start with what you like! In doing so, though, be sure to select a variety of three to five cheeses with a range of distinct tastes and textures.
Here is a sampling of some cheeses and their appropriate wine pairings:
1. Brie – This soft, creamy, and savory mild French cheese can be paired with white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc or White Zinfandel, and reds such as a Bordeaux, Chianti, or Beaujolais. It can also go well with Champagne, a Sweet Sherry wine, or Chablis.
2. Parmigiano Reggiano – This hard cheese with its roots in Parma, Italy, has a distinctive sharp and nutty flavor that goes great with medium to full-bodied reds such as Barbaresco, Pinot Noir, Chianti Riserva, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Barolo.
3. Gouda – This semi-soft cheese is named after the Dutch town of Gouda. It has a mild, nutty flavor with a slightly caramel-like sweetness and buttery taste. As the cheese ages, its flavor becomes more intense. Hence, aged Gouda has a more full-bodied flavor. A young Gouda can be paired with white wines such as a Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, or White Burgundy; while an aged one is best served with a Bordeaux or Merlot.
4. Aged or Mature Cheddar – Cheddar cheese has a characteristically deep orange color—which comes from achiote extract or paprika oil—and a strong, sharp taste. This sharpness becomes more pronounced the longer the cheese ages, while its texture also becomes harder and more crumbly. Pleasing wine partners for aged cheddar would be Cabernet, Rioja, and Sauvignon Blanc.
5. Gruyere – Tracing its origins to the Alpine region between Switzerland and France, this hard cheese is known for its millstone shape and its dense, compact texture that is slightly grainy. Recommended wine pairings for Gruyere are Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, or Gewurztraminer; or a light, fruity Beaujolais, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, or even an Italian Chianti.
In our photo above, we laid out three kinds of cheeses—peppered feta, aged cheddar, and goat cheese. On the side, we have pistachio nuts and a bunch of grapes, a selection of crackers and crusty bread, and of course a bottle of fine wine—such as the Château La Conseillante Pomerol (1989).
Which now leads us to the other accompaniments you can serve.
Other Accompaniments to Complete the Spread
In addition to presenting a great cheese selection, there are a number of other ways to make your shower party a truly fun and flavorful experience. Below are some helpful tips to keep in mind:
- For convenience and less of a mess, you can pre-cut the cheeses into chunks or slices. Or if you opt to have guests cut the cheese themselves, set out a sharp knife or cheese slicer and a wooden cutting board. Small plates with napkins and cocktail forks are also good to keep handy. And if you are truly pressed for time, your local grocery may sell cheese platters that are already pre-cut for you.
- You can also set out individual cheese plates with a sampling of every cheese together with fruits, fruit paste, jams, honey, and even nuts. Use pretty plates with a chic design or miniature wooden trays. This way, guests get to try a little of everything! An example of an inviting cheese plate could consist of chunks of brie, gouda, and aged cheddar with accompaniments such as strawberries, grapes, figs, and nuts.
- You may also want to include a sampling of different meats together with the cheeses—a presentation known as a charcuterie and cheese platter. This can play up the theme of different kinds of artisanal cheeses and meats from one country. For instance, you can prepare an Italian sampler plate consisting of meats such as Prosciutto, Salami, and Pancetta, paired with Italian cheeses such as Pecorino Romano, Grana Padano, and Gruviera. Then, complete the platter with fruits such as figs and pears; and nuts such as hazelnuts, walnuts, and almonds.
- As for breads and crackers, choose those that enhance rather than conflict with or overpower the flavor of the cheeses. So, a plain fresh baguette of Italian or French bread works fine, as well as crostini or flatbreads. Avoid breads made with any herbs or fruit as they detract from the taste of the cheese. Moreover, there are also many wine cracker choices available. So pick those that appeal to you or stick with favorites such as Ritz®, Carr’s® Table Water Crackers, or American Vintage Wine Biscuits®.
Presentation is Key
By its very nature, a wine and cheese party is not a formal, sit-down affair—but rather a warm gathering where everyone mingles and chats while enjoying the fine, light fare. So, when planning your bridal shower, you may want to consider these tips for adding special touches to the event:
# Tip 1 - Make it fun for everyone by setting up mini wine stations. You can lay these out on counters, side tables, or movable trolleys in different sections of the party venue. For each wine you plan to serve, prepare a card bearing its name, background information, and tasting notes. Display this in a pretty frame decorated with a motif matching the wine or your shower theme.
# Tip 2 - You can add flair to the presentation by serving the wines in stylishly shaped decanters—then decorating these to create a striking centerpiece. In our example above, bright red fabric roses bring instant pizazz to a grouping of wine decanters. Great impact with minimal effort. Plus it’s budget-friendly, too! If you prefer to use fresh blooms, a simple glass bowl of bold red carnations would be equally stunning.
# Tip 3 - As for the cheeses, you can present these on large wooden cheese boards or elegant glass or ceramic trays. Identify each cheese variety with a little card on a toothpick, or you may represent its country of origin with a miniature national flag. These not only serve as decorative accents; they’re also a thoughtful gesture for guests deciding which savory treat to try first!
Wine-inspired Party Mementos
Of course, guest favors in keeping with the wine-and-cheese theme would be ideal. Some wonderful gift ideas we suggest:
- Dainty bags of sheer organza filled with some crackers and a foil-wrapped wedge of cheese. Notice how the pouches are embroidered with a grape vine design, and the thank-you tags are shaped like grape leaves. Present these in a rustic, woven basket for guests to take from.
- Miniature bottles of wine bearing personalized labels, like “A toast to the bride-to-be!” and wrapped in fabric.
- Small cheese knives or cheese slicers, wrapped in protective paper, then laid on a bed of crinkle paper inside gift boxes.
Your Wine and Cheese Party Planning Checklist:
1. To select the cheeses to serve, start with those you know and like. Then, increase the selection to include 3 to 5 varieties with distinct flavors and textures. See our list above.
2. Pair your cheese choices with the appropriate wines. Our suggested pairings above are a helpful guide—but the rule of thumb is that mild cheeses go well with delicate wines, while strongly-flavored cheeses are best served with full-bodied wines.
3. Complement your wines and cheeses with crusty breads and crackers, fresh fruit, and nuts. Serve these on individual sampler plates—with a selection of meats, if desired. A sampler of all-Italian cheeses and meats, for example, would be one enticing option!
4. Plan special touches like mini wine stations, decorative wine decanters, stylish cheese boards and platters, and helpful wine and cheese “signages” that match your chosen theme.
5. Send guests off with wine-inspired shower favors, like grape vine-embroidered pouches filled with crackers and cheese or miniature bottles of wine.
If you’d like to read up more on planning a wine and cheese party, we suggest these helpful sites and books: