Cheese is the ultimate entertaining food, but with so many varieties and flavours to choose from, how do you select the perfect cheese for the perfect cheeseboard?
For a well-balanced cheese board, try to keep it simple with one soft cheese, one semi-hard cheese as well as a hard cheese. The French have a tradition of serving only odd numbers of cheeses: three, five or seven.
If you don’t know the preferences of your dinner guests, offer cheeses that range from mild to strong so that you are able to cater to different tastes.
Also, when you arrange the cheese on your platter or cheese board, ensure that the cheeses are arranged in a clockwise direction, from the mildest to the strongest, to make it easy for guests to remember.
If you want to offer cheese at the end of the Christmas meal, choose a lovely piece of farmhouse Cheddar or Stilton and serve with a glass of Port. Pair with walnuts, raisins and Port-infused roasted pears.
Alternatively, if you would prefer to provide a generous selection of cheeses, create a board to suit and serve it before the dessert.
How to Put Together your Christmas Cheese Board – with Wines to Match!
Start with Soft Cheeses such as Brie, Camembert or Ricotta and/or Goats Cheese. As these cheeses can be very rich, and mouth coating, they need to be paired with wine that is high in acidity.
When it comes to the white wines, Chardonnay is a good bet, as is a Sparkling White Wine and Pinot Gris. A Semillon Sauvignon Blanc or a Sauvignon Blanc is fantastic, and a nice Riesling or a Gewurztraminer will be good. If you must do a red wine with these cheeses, try a Merlot or a Pinot Noir.
The next cheese should be a mild cheese such as Mozzarella, Monterey Jack or a mild Cheddar. These cheeses have some flavour to them and go well with a variety of wines due to their texture and mild flavour.
The best wines to serve with these cheeses are full-bodied white wines such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Viognier. If you'd like to match a red wine, make sure you stick to the lighter type of red wines because you don't want the red wine to overpower the cheese.
Follow up with a medium cheese such as Cheddar, Colby, Edam or Gouda. Here a dry white Riesling or even a Pinot Gris is a good match, as well as light and moderate red wines such as Merlot, Pinot Noir, and even Shiraz.
For the bold, include a more pungent cheese - Blue Cheese, Parmesan or a mature aged Cheddar. These cheeses have very distinct and intense flavours and demand a full, tannic red, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Merlot or Shiraz that will stand up to a strong flavoured cheese. Port is the classic accompaniment to most cheese and goes particularly well with strongly flavoured ones.
The journey continues with a Smoked Cheese. The salty, bacon taste of smoked cheese is so distinctive that it is tough to find wine that can live up to it, without altering the flavour of the wine. An Australian Shiraz would be the most preferred match here. A sweet dessert wine (Sauternes) will also withstand the smoky taste.
Finally, the blue! Try Danish Blue, Stilton or Gorgonzola. These cheeses should always be tasted at the end as its big mineral bite can overpower other flavours.
A wonderful ripe Stilton where the blue is marbled through the pate imbues a range of taste profiles, from sharp and sweet to nutty and buttery.
A Bit on the Side – Accompaniments
Surrounding your cheese board with appropriate accompaniments adds interest and contrasting, yet complementary flavours. They not only look decorative, but seasonal fruits enhance the flavours of the cheese and are a palate cleanser – try apples, pears, grapes, fresh figs, or even dried raisins, apricots or dates.
Delight your guest’s taste-buds with a delectable chutney, jam, quince paste, pate or even some cured olives. To take your cheese board to the next level, try adding some sliced charcuterie, such as prosciutto and salami.
Almost as difficult as selecting your cheeses is selecting the crackers to accompany your cheese board. There is only one rule here – keep it simple, let the cheese do the talking!
Plain crackers, breadsticks, crostini or crusty bread all provide a texture contrast, while their subtleness allows the flavour profile of the cheese to be at the forefront and untainted.
Keep it local with these cheeseboard essentials:
The Hunter Olive Centre – Belebula Garlic & Chilli Kalamata Olives
There’s no better way to enhance the flavours on your plate than with olives. Belebula Garlic and Chilli Olives have been locally produced using fruit from The Hunter Olive Centre’s Belebula vineyard.
Flavoured in brine and various spices, they are a beautiful addition to a cheese platter (and if there’s any left over, toss them through pasta, or top off a wood-fired pizza).
WHERE Pokolbin Estate, The Hunter Olive Centre, 298 Mcdonalds Road, Pokolbin.
RRP $13.50 (250g).
Hunter Valley Cheese Factory – Brokenback Black Vintage Cheddar
If you’re looking for the perfect cheese to highlight that cheese platter, your best bet is a classic cheddar cheese. The Hunter Valley Cheese Factory has a broad range of cheeses to choose from, but our top pick
is the Brokenback Black Vintage Cheddar.
The firm texture and strong flavour are delicious alongside a fruity Pinot Noir or a light
WHERE Hunter Valley Cheese Factory at McGuigan Wine Cellars, 447 McDonalds Road, Pokolbin.
RRP $25.95 (300g).
Matts Produce – Quince Jam
Chef and renowned restauranteur, Matt Dillow has been operating quality restaurants in the Hunter Valley for many years and produces a range of condiments – many of which are suitable for your cheese board – including a homemade lavosh and his famous Fig, Date & Walnut Roll.
Our all-time favourite, however, is Matts Quince Jam – it really is the perfect accompaniment for any cheese platter – big or small.
WHERE The Deck Café at Gartelmann Wines, 701 Lovedale Road, Lovedale.
RRP $13 (330g).
Kerr's Organic – Relish Pack
We think any of these scrumptious relishes has a place on the cheese board – especially if you include charcuterie in the lineup.
Our favourite is the Chilli Jam – but the Beetroot relish comes a close second – it really does depend upon your taste – and there’s a relish or chutney here to suit all of them! Buy individually or as a pack.
WHERE Nanna Kerrs Kitchen, 16 Pokolbin
Mountains Road, Pokolbin.
RRP $59/pack (As shown).