Event organizers now plan elaborate wine and cheese receptions instead of sit-down dinners. They feel the informal atmosphere is more conducive to mingle, carry conversations with different people. Some others feel more business can be transacted if one has a chance to converse with many instead with those to his/her left and right.
Be it as may such parties must be set up carefully to focus on the objective of the reception. The objective may be to introduce a new product, or look for new markets or new ideas.
Wine and cheese receptions must be carefully planned with a limited number of cheeses (two soft, two medium-hard, and two aged). All must be presented in a fashion for easy service (cubed for hard, sliced semi-hard, and natural for soft). Unsalted biscuits and nut-breads (three or four types) are recommended.
For fruits select those that people can pick with ease i.e red and green grapes, strawberries, and blueberries. Nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds) for texture contrast are recommended.
As for wines you can either opt for stations (three or four) each of which will offer two to four white and red wines, or you can have servers circulate with trays of glasses that are half-filed with one brand of wine. Both set ups offer advantages and disadvantages.
Stations can be overcrowded and one may be more popular that the other, the circulating server method is prone to people discarding their glasses if the wine fails to please them. Needless to say, all glasses must be property washed, polished and spotlessly clean to let each wine shine.
Wine and cheese receptions require less space, are less expensive (if the wines selected happen to be moderately priced) offer more contact opportunities and be wrapped up within two to four hours. Wine and cheese complement each other. Enjoying both when they match perfectly can be a heavily experience. Some cheeses complement better, a certain style of wine than others.
Organizing wine and cheese parties can provide an opportunity to learn how different cheeses can enhance the taste and texture of some wines and not others.
Here are some suggestions for a successful event.
Determine a budget
Make a list of people you want to invite
Compile a list of cheeses or ask if organizers have suggestions
Calculate 120 – 150 grams of cheese per person (more if you choose soft cheeses only, less if semi-soft and hard).
Choose crackers and biscuits you wish to offer or ask organizers for their preferences
French baguettes, Calabrese brad and whole-wheat organic breads
are popular breads for such events.
Ensure that sufficient number of glasses that are properly washed, polished and spotless (If you don’t have enough you can rent)
Ensure that there are enough plates and approximate cutlery to cut cheeses
Prepare a list of the wines and calculate 375 ml per person
In big cities there are enough cheese wholesalers to meet almost any demand. In smaller cities the selection is limited but still adequate for a successful event
Cheeses are texturally grouped in
Fresh (cottage, cream, ricotta)
Soft (Brie, camembert)
Semi-soft (Mozzarella, Havarti, St. Paulin)
Firm (Brick, Edam, Cheddar)
Hard (Asiago, Pecorino, Parmigiano Reggiano
Blue veined cheeses fit into the semi-soft group, but taste wise belong to a separate and distinct group
Fresh cheeses are generally too bland and therefore inappropriate for wine and cheese events
Soft cheeses possess a creamy white, bloomy crust with butter-coloured paste. Well-ripened cheeses have spotty brown crusts, are runny, and smell of ammonia.
Quebec cream cheeses remain relatively firm regardless of their ripeness.
Some of the more popular soft cheeses are – from France, Quebec or Ontario in Canada, ad the U S A.
When it comes to semi-soft cheeses the choice is big – Mozzarella, Boccocini, Havarti, Oka, St Paulin, Limburger, Monterey Jack, fall into this group.
Firm cheeses that enjoy popularity are – Brick, Colby, Cheddar, Emmenthal, Buttercheese, Gruyere, Edam, Raclette, Friulano, Marble, provolone, Bel paese and Vacherin.
Processed firm cheeses are milder in flavour.
Hard cheeses are most flavourful and are much liked by millions of cheese lovers.
Here are some you can ask for or let the hotel management suggest – Parmigiano reggiano, aged cheddar from England, or Ontario.
Note: Wisconsin, Argentina, and New Zealand produce imitations and sell them as Parmesan or more frequently as Parmigiano reggiano. They lack the flavour of the authentic product.
Blue veined cheeses such as Roquefort, Bleu d’Auvergne, Danish blue, Bleu de Bresse, Gorgonzola, Cambozola and Ermite bleu from Quebec are much liked by many cheese lovers, but not all.
Blue veined cheeses go best with very intense wines such as amarone, Georgian red wines, Rhone Valley reds, as well as those from Ribera del Duero, Jumilla, and Yecla wines.
Goat cheeses are occasionally grouped as a sub-group. They are soft with intense, acid flavours pending region of origin and species of goat. Canadian goat cheeses are much milder than those from continental Europe.
Insist that cheeses be served at room temperature and wines at correct temperatures. Hotels and restaurants are notorious for serving cheeses cold and wines too warm.
Here are some true and tried wines and cheese matches:
Bocconcini: Beaujolais Villages, Zweigelt (Austria), Pinot noir from Oregon, or California’s Carneros district, Ontario pinot noir.
Brick – cabernet franc from Ontario, Merlot from Casa Lapostolle.
Brie – Chablis from William Fevre, Soave Riserva Masi, Pinot Blanc Konzelmann, Pinot Gris Vineland Estates
Double Cream cheeses from Quebec – Auxerois Chateau de Charmes, Segura Viudas, Codorniu
Triple cream cheeses – Rueda wines, sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, Sancerre
Camembert – Barrel aged reserve chardonnay from California, or Ontario
Cheddar mild – Chardonnay from South Australia, Chile, Ontario Riesling.
Cheddar old cabernet sauvignon, or blends, merlot from Washington state
Crottin de Chavignol – sauvignon blanc from new Zealand, or Ontario, Sancerre, Pinot blanc
Emmental – Australian shiraz, South African cabernet sauvignon, Washington state cabernet sauvignon, Ontario Meritage, or cabernet sauvignon kiln-dried from Ontario.
Mozzarella – Beaujolais, or gamay or pinot noir from Ontario.
Oka – merlot from Bordeaux, Baco Noir reserve from Ontario, Paso Robles red wines, Ontario cabernet franc, California cabernet sauvignon.
Vacherin – Riesling from Germany or Ontario, or New Zealand, Marsanne from the Rhone Valley