Think about texture
Matching wines and cheeses with similar textures will give you and your guests the best mouth-feel experience. Try the lushness of a silky Chardonnay with a creamy Brie, or the bite of Pinot Noir with sharp cheddar. (Enjoy the delicious foods and flavors of the holidays? Click here.)
For the most part, you’ll want to pair cheeses and wines that won’t overpower each other. Soft, fresh cheeses like Camembert and Brie pair well with a dry, crisp Riesling or Pinot Grigio, while stronger-flavored cheeses like manchego and Havarti can stand up to fuller-bodied wines like Chardonnay or Merlot. (Find out what your favorite alcoholic drink says about your personality.)
Look for a bit of contrast
Sometimes a bit of contrast is the best way to complement flavors. Salty-sweet combinations work so well, so try salty gorgonzola with a sweet port. Meanwhile, a stinky cheese requires the balance of a light wine—consider pairing Taleggio cheese with red Burgundy.
Make a road map
To take your guests on a true flavor journey, pick a variety of flavors and textures. Keep the tastes from getting overpowered by having partygoers start with light wines and fresh cheeses before moving on to the flavors with more depth. (Check out these clever ways to open wine without a corkscrew.)
Let guests know what they’re getting
Answer guests’ menu questions before they ask by putting out note cards identifying each cheese. You can make them as fancy or as simple as you’d like, or even set the cheeses on slate tiles with the names written in chalk. (Don't miss these other ways to make everyone in the room relax.)
Set out a knife for every cheese
The point of the party should be to taste each wine and cheese pairing fully, which means you want to avoid mixing flavors. Set out a separate knife for each cheese so your palate doesn’t get confused. No need to run out for special cheese knives—the butter knives or paring knives you have on hand will do the trick.
Keep the bread fresh
There’s no shame in popping cheese slices straight in your mouth, but you should leave out crusty bread and crackers for guests to spread their cheeses. Leave them in a basket and wrap them in cloth so they don’t get dry. (Feel good about those carbs—this is why science says you should eat more bread.)
Give some variety
No one’s going to complain about too much wine and cheese, but having a few other foods on hand will keep your menu interesting. Leave out little bowls of figs, grapes, nuts, pickled vegetables, or cured meats to give a change of flavor.
Hit the right temperatures
Take your cheese out of the fridge 30 to 60 minutes before you plan to dig in to get the right flavor and texture. Serve white wine chilled at 45°F, and red wine kept at 60°F. (Read these ideas for what to do with your leftover wine.)
Dress it up
A few wine-related decorations will elevate the scene and show you went the extra mile. Use old wine bottles as flower vases, or pile corks in a glass container to step up your party game.