You Bring the Wine, I’ll Bring the Cheese

Cheese and Wine Party

Here’s one of my favorite party tricks: give your guests the assignment to bring a bottle of wine that fits into one of three categories (bubbly, big red, or dessert wine). Then run to the cheese shop and buy six hunks of cheese — two cheeses to match each wine style — and a little nosh. When everyone comes over, pop the corks and start pairing those cheeses. It’s a ball, and no one will want to leave.

This Sunday, I’ve plotted just such a fete with a crew from the South Philly Food Co-op (4-6 p.m.). If you live in the Philadelphia area, you can join us (tickets here). If you live far away, you can try this party trick at home. Here’s how it works:

Tips for a Winter Wine & Cheese Party

1. When you send out invites, tell each guest to bring one of the following bottles of wine:

  • Bubbly (Prosecco, Cava, Champagne)
  • Big Red (Zin, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot)
  • Dessert wine (Madeira, Port, Sherry, Riesling, Ice Wine)

2. Here’s your assignment: go to a respected cheese shop and work with a cheesemonger to pick out the following cheese styles:

  • Two triple crèmes (for the bubbly)
  • One bracingly sharp Cheddar, one extra aged Gouda (for the big reds)
  • One salty blue, one hard sheep’s milk cheese (for the dessert wines)

3. Load up on baguettes, plump green olives, dried apricots, roasted almonds, speck (if you want charcuterie) and cherry jam. Set everything out on some nice cutting boards. Put out lots of glasses and little plates. Then let people taste, take notes, talk with their mouths full, etc. Don’t forget:

  • Serve your cheeses at room temperature.
  • Set out a different knife for each cheese.
  • Slice your cheeses length-wise so that they form pie-shaped wedges — that way everyone can get a little rind.

Note: There are many more cheeses you could choose for this party, but this is a good start to understanding how cheeses and wines match. Bold reds can be difficult to pair, so the key is to lean sweet (like jammy zins) and add spice (like sharp Cheddar). Let me know if you make some scintillating discoveries.


For more entertaining ideas, check out my book. It’s the result of many, many cheese and wine parties, though I also love beer. I’ll give you more party tips like this one in the coming weeks.


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9 Responses to “You Bring the Wine, I’ll Bring the Cheese”
  1. Aunt Dawnie says:

    I was looking for you – but – of course! You are taking the picture!
    A votre sante!

  2. Leigh says:

    So excited to host you on Sunday! I’m really looking forward to putting some lessons behind wine and cheese (two things I love very much, but don’t actually KNOW anything about)

  3. Beth S says:

    I have been to champagne parties where the only things served were champagne and sweet Christmas cookies; after a while I needed a cracker or cheese!
    I love the sound of this type of party, but do I have to provide other food, too? I’m 57, and as I get older my friends and I tend to get together earlier on the weekends and end earlier. Thus, the reason I feel I would need to serve some sort of meal, too. I understand a wine and cheese party, but my friends tend to “hang” probably too long, so I feel the need to feed them more and then I get overwhelmed.
    Any suggestions, besides new friends?
    Beth Samarin

    • tdarlington says:

      Beth, you can round out your cheese board with fruit (apples, pears, grapes), nuts, charcuterie, jam, and bread — in my book, that’s a meal. If you want to offer a meal to your guests, make a soup or stew and a salad. Let people help themselves to those items in the kitchen, then the focus stays on the cheese. Or, if you want to serve a meal before or after the cheese: offer a lightly dressed pasta (with shrimp, garlic, and tomatoes) and a crisp salad, or you could roast a chicken with root vegetables. I like to let cheese be the star of the meal. Then I round out along the edges with light fare.

  4. LOVE THIS! This is such a great guide! I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked this question. Think I may keep a copy of this post in my purse. Praise Cheeses!

    Stay Cheesy!
    The House Mouse

  5. Camilla says:

    This is something I haven’t tried – but will definitely do as it sounds so fun. I have been to cheesegatherings which have been announced on Facebook. The theme was decided such as British cheeses or goat cheeses. Everyone would bring a cheese for the table plus beverage. It was great fun to meet new people who also shared the passion for cheese!

    • tdarlington says:

      Lovely! Thanks for your comment, Camilla. A thematic party is a lot of fun — I did a little Downton Abbey cheese board once of Britty kitties and it was a ton of fun.

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