A Fancy Affair
By Melissa Byrd
University Daily Kansan
Thursday, May 4, 2006
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Wine makes daily living easier,
less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance.” Genius
that he was, Franklin summed up why wine is the perfect party
beverage. Not only does wine break the ice, but it’s classier
than the old keg-in-a-black-trashcan routine. And it tastes damn
So if you want to up the swank quotient on your next soiree,
serve wine. But if you really want to impress, serve wine with
a perfectly-paired cheese. Read on to learn how to match wine
and cheese and throw a party that will put the keg into temporary
First, you must decide which wines you will serve so you can
pair them with the right cheese. Having both red and white wines
is a good idea to give guests more choices, or you can go with
a theme, such as wines from a particular region or country.
Though it may take extra planning, it could help to ask your
guests to bring a bottle of wine to share, says Jennifer Stanton,
owner of Wines By Jennifer, a global wine boutique and tasting
room in Parkville, Mo.
When your friends bring a bottle of wine, they should also bring
along an index card with the name of the wine written on it.
This way, people can write notes about the wine and the cheese
paired with it for future reference, Stanton says. If you decide
to provide all the wine, hand out index cards with the descriptions
when your friends arrive.
Finally, set up your table with the wine, cheese, breads and
crackers and index cards.
shouldn’t drink wine by itself, says Tina Stamos, wholesale
and special projects manager at Au Marché, 931 Massachusetts
St. Rather, wine is meant to go with specific foods — especially
variety of cheeses is as limitless as the types of wines. When
serving cheeses, Lora Wiley, owner of Au Marché,
suggests presenting them in groups of three. For example, pick
three different bleu cheeses or soft-ripened cheeses. Or choose
three cheeses from different regions with varying colors and
Here’s a quick lesson: The cheese should not overpower the wine.
“You want to pick something mild, so you’re not covering up the
wine,” Stanton says. Steer clear of spicy or heavily-flavored
cheeses that may influence the wine you’re sampling, she says.
Take the cheeses out of the refrigerator about an hour before
you serve them to achieve the maximum flavor, Stamos says. As
with wine, the taste of the cheese will change with time.
And remember, pairings are just a guideline. Rules are never
absolute when it comes to food and wine. “You don’t have to get
stuck in a food rut,” Stamos says. “The fun is in the variety
and experiencing it all.”
Budget about 3 1/2 ounces of cheese per guest, says Steven Jenkins
in his book, The Cheese Primer. Jenkins recommends serving no
more than five cheeses; more could be overwhelming.
The cheeses at a specialty store are more expensive because
of the way they are processed, Stamos says. Many are aged a year
or more, which contributes to a higher cost — they’re different
from the plain cheddar or Monterey jack you would find at a grocery
Try the wines without the cheese first, Stanton says. This will
allow you to savor their flavors.
Wines should be tasted from lightest to heaviest. Start with
whites such as Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, then
work your way up to the richest and driest wines like Pinot Noir,
Syrah and Cabernet.
Taste your wine in small samples. Smell, swirl and smell and
swirl some more before finally tasting. Drinking wine is not
like drinking any other beverage, Stanton says. “You really need
to swirl the glass to open up the aromas in the wine because
it’s been sleeping in the bottle,” she says. “You’re letting
it out and letting it breathe.”
When you take a sip of wine, let it flow over the top of your
tongue and swish it around your mouth, Stanton says. Because
your tongue is covered in taste buds, each part will pick up
different flavors. “You need to, more or less, chew your wine,”
A simple French baguette and three types of assorted crackers
go well as accompaniments, Stamos says. You don’t want a bread
that has a lot of flavor that takes away from the cheese and
wine. She also suggests serving different types of olives, pickles
and other preserved items as palate cleansers, along with fresh
fruit. This makes the table more visually appealing.
Finally, have a great time doing something different. Julian
French, Shawnee sophomore, says a wine and cheese party appeals
to him because it’s a change of pace from the usual party scene.
“People don’t have to be drunk and crazy to have fun,” French
says. “I like chillin’ with my friends while sipping a nice glass
of wine. It’s really relaxing.”
Cheese: Taste and Texture, Suggested Wines, Suggested Foods
Tangy, ripe and earthy; semi-soft to hard
Cabernet Sauvignon, sparkling wines or Port, Syrah, Zinfandel
Figs, pears, walnuts, fruit, nut breads
Creamy, rich, buttery; soft
Sparkling wines, Chardonnay, medium-bodied Pinot Noir
Green apples, strawberries, pears, toasted walnuts, crusty bread
Mild to sharp, tangy and robust; semi-hard to hard
Gewurtztraminer, Riesling, medium-bodied Merlot and Syrah
Red or green grapes, apples, cherries, cashews, dark breads
Mellow rich caramel; semi-hard to hard
Riesling, fruity Zinfandel, Merlot
Red apples, toasted almonds, dark breads
Sweet to sharp, buttery; semi-hard
Sauvignon Blanc, young Cabernet Sauvignon, light-bodied Pinot
Green grapes, cherries, toasted almonds, pumpernickel bread
Jennifer Stanton; For further information on pairings, visit