Updated: Feb 23
Wine and cheese make a delightful couple so matching wine to cheese is ideal for festivities on or about Valentine’s Day. Purchase a variety of cheeses and assign to each pair of guests a particular cheese, asking them to bring along a wine that will pair well with that cheese. Below is the invitation we sent, fully dosed with doggerel. It was printed with red ink on pink card stock and decorated with stick-on hearts. Each pair of guests was sent their own invitation with their names and assigned a particular cheese along with a suggestion for the price limit of the wine, as illustrated below. While the invitation is keyed to Valentine’s Day, this party idea will work any time. I’ve done it twice and both times guests loved it. Everyone got a kick out of learning about their cheese, checking into the wines for the match, describing to other guests the wine and the cheese and explaining their match.
Dear Nancy and Tom (guest names here),
For Valentine’s Day glee Let’s celebrate with cheese. But cheese alone will not do. The date clearly calls for two. A match, a marriage, a pair For all of us to share. The cheese we’re providing Its soul mate we’re desiring So please do come and bring A sweetheart of a wine With your cheese to combine. Nancy and Tom (place guest names on this line) Humboldt Fog (name of cheese here) is your cheese Find in wine its soul mate, please. Priceless though a soul mate be Under twenty-five’s the fee.
Information on time and place here Repeat the above for each pair of guests. We consulted a cheese monger for a selection of cheeses (cow, goat or sheep; hard or soft; fresh or aged; etc.) that would likely be matched to different wines. Our guests loved the idea. They researched their assigned cheese and consulted wine merchants for the match. They got a kick out of learning more about cheese and thinking more about food and wine matches. But the best part was, of course, the pleasure of sampling so many interesting combinations of cheese and wine. To maximize the experience of the matches, we set the dining room table with a station for each of the cheese-wine pairings, printing small cards with the names of each cheese and the guests who brought the matching wine. That allowed guests to circulate around the table, sampling the pairings and asking questions about each cheese and its wine. Here is a sample of the matches.
Humboldt Fog is just about my favorite cheese. It’s a soft, goat’s milk cheese with a grey band running through it. The band is vegetable ash so this is not a blue cheese. The vegetable ash helps mold to grow on the outside while making for an appealing appearance. This is a cheese that takes to a lot of different wines, from Champagne to Chardonnay to a dry Reisling.
Grand Noir is a blue cheese from cow’s milk cheese. From Bavaria, it is dipped in black wax before aging. It’s creamy and bold so it’s best matched to a bold red. Our guests chose a Barolo.
Queso de Oveja con Flores is a sheep’s milk cheese from Spain’s La Mancha Province, from where Manchego cheese also comes. It’s mild in flavor with hints of the embedded flowers. Our guest decided to match it with a late harvest (Beerenauslese) Reisling from Germany because the aroma and complex taste of these late harvest wines remind him of flowers. A Beerenauslese is always expensive, and, therefore, his wine went over our suggested limit of $25, but our guest explained that he had had this one in his wine cellar for some time and was happy to contribute it to the festivities. I’ve done this party twice, once on Valentine’s Day and also on an ordinary Sunday afternoon. Both parties were winners. To this day, several of the guests still remark on what a great evening it was. The secret to success - asking guests to make a match made them invested in the evening. Spending time investigating cheeses and wines meant they had a stake in the party. There was probably an element of competition as well - whose match is best. Allowing guests to circulate around the different cheese/wine matches as they pleased allowed for lots of inter-guest interactions - some serious, some fun.