Wine and cheese parties are a great way for guests to mingle and try new things. The nice thing about these parties is that they are so versatile - they can range from sophisticated and upscale to super casual, and are a cinch to plan.
#1 ID the Cheese
Your guests will want to taste something new. Wine bottles already have labels, but cheese does not! Therefore, it's important - and polite - to label your cheese selections. You want to ensure guests are prepared when they take a bite!
Make sure you clearly label each cheese, either by sticking a toothpick with a label into the cheese or by placing a place card in front.
Earn extra points by writing a short description of the flavor, which you can also do for the wines you're serving. Not only will this inform guests as to exactly what they are about to encounter, it will also aid them in understanding why a certain cheese is paired with a certain wine.
#2 Use Proper Knives
Don't let your guests struggle to cut cheeses with your everyday knives - invest in a good hard cheese and soft cheese knife.
A quality hard cheese knife will have a short, flat blade that is sharp, but smooth. This sort of knife is ideal for cutting hard cheeses like Parmigiano Reggiano, Aged Cheddar or Mahon Sec.
Conversely, a good soft cheese knife will have a longer thin blade. It's edge is sometimes sharp, but typically you'll find they are dull. This type of blade is ideal for cutting soft cheeses like Brie, Cream Cheese or Mozzarella.
#3 Use the Kitchen Creatively
Coolers are great for tailgate parties, days at the beach or picnics in the park, but when hosting a wine tasting, they do nothing for your decor. And most of us might have one ice bucket at our disposal, but that doesn't do much when there are 6 bottles that need chilling.
Here are a couple of alternative ways to keep wines chilled.
Plug the drain and fill your sink with ice. Voila! You have an instant ice cooler ready to keep drinks cold. Out of sight, this will keep your table space reserved for any hors d'oeuvres you may be serving or wines that are ready to be tasted.
Reuse large containers you may have by lining them with a smaller, plastic bucket and dumping ice inside. For instance, that wide wicker basket you sometimes use as a base for summer table arrangements? Pop a low lieing plastic basin inside and pour in a coating of ice. Then, pop your bottles inside. (In the picture above we added flowers to the basket as an extra pick-me up.)
#4 Create a Cute Solution for Used Toothpicks
Delicious appetizers and cubes of cheese are easily eaten with toothpicks. Problem is, even the best hosts often forget to provide guests with a place to put the used picks!
Avoid that mistake by creating a cute solution. Set out a plate with an orange on it and stick a toothpick on top with the label "Used Picks" on it. Stick one toothpick in it to get guests on the bandwagon, and they'll do the rest!
Not only will this help keep toothpicks from being placed randomly throughout your space for you to find days later, it will also help fill your room with a wonderfully citrus scent that won't overpower the aroma of the wines you are tasting.
#5 Use Cool Coasters
For an informal wine tasting you want to keep prep work minimal, but if you're like us, you also want to add a special touch to your party. We've discovered that coasters go a long way at tastings we host.
It's extremely easy to find inexpensive and unexpected coasters at local thrift shops, dollar stores or craft supply stores. You can also purchase white ceramic ones and write or draw your own designs in colorful permanent markers that wash away with a some Windex and a strong scrub.
Coasters may not be a priority on your list, but they should be! Pops of color to rest a glass of wine on work wonders for the look of your event and are more often than not, a great conversation starter with guests.