The perfect cheese board is gorgeous and filled to the brim with different soft and hard cheeses, fruits and charcuterie. So, what’s the secret to the perfect cheese board, the one that will have everyone at your holiday party not just snapping photos for Instagram but actually enjoying the spread? Well, here’s our secret: for a stress-free hosting experience, leave it to the professionals like Aspiring Catering. However, we know it is not possible to hire our team for every hosting event, so we decided to spread some holiday cheer and help you create the perfect holiday cheese board this season. This is our ultimate tip for your perfect holiday cheese board: it’s all about the cheese + wine pairings.
Follow our step-by-step cheese board guide for a stunning looking cheeseboard that will have everyone reaching for seconds. Tip: Be sure the cheese you’re buying is as delicious as the spread looks. Good cheese comes in all shapes and sizes, but some South Island favourites are Whitestone, Evansdale, Kaikoura Cheese & Cranky Goat. These cheeses all pair well with a variety of wines, but especially well with some of the beautiful wines produced by Central Otago wineries. Be sure to tag us in your cheese board posts, we want to see your spreads!
Photo: Kate Roberge
Step 1: The Ingredients
Each cheese board is unique and comes down to personal taste, dietary restrictions and choice. However, there are some general guidelines we use to ensure every cheese board is ‘Gram worthy.
The Cheese: To start, select three to four cheeses that have a distinct flavour profile, such as creamy, nutty, or unique profiles. Sharp cheeses could include tasty, parmesan, Havarti or a sharp swiss. Some of our favourite creamy cheeses are brie, camembert and feta. Nutty cheeses include smoked aged gouda, gruyere or manchego. We always like to include a nice blue cheese as well. The best cheeses are crafted from fresh, original ingredients and are made to suit a range of unique palates, so as long as you pick a quality cheese, it will work perfectly.
Once you have your cheeses, the hard part in done. This is a cheese board after all, and you have just selected the key contenders.
The Cured Meats: To accompany the cheese you can choose a range of cured meats such as prosciutto or Italian dry salami.
The Cheese Vehicle: Next, one of the most overlooked but important elements of a good cheese board is what the cheese will be served on. No, not the platter, but the old how do I pick up the cheese & actually eat it part. Pick a range of your favourite crackers, cheese twists, biscuits and types of bread. We recommend having a variety of cheese vehicles to appeal to all tastes, but also to best pair with each type of cheese
Fruits & Nuts: Now it’s time to pick the items that will accompany the cheese to bring some fun and variety to your board. We always start with Manuka honey and then move on to items like walnuts, pistachios, grapes, strawberries, dates, figs, kiwi fruit, oranges, cherries, peaches, pears and a range of dried fruits are some of our favourites. The key to it tasting as good as it looks is to pick fruits that are fresh and in-season. You may even choose to add some Whittaker’s dark chocolate for the sweet tooth in your group.
Photo: Charlotte Kiri Photography
Spreads & Vegetables: These can help bring some extra flavour & variety to the board and we recommend them for large boards or grazing platters. Some of our favourites are sun-dried tomatoes, quince paste, hummus, pesto, marinated olives or artichokes. The final touch is adding some edible flowers or whatever you have in the garden, like a sprig of rosemary or lavender. Think of these also as the decorative and exciting items that will bring your cheese board to life, making it look like an artist’s creation.
Step 2: The Wine Pairings
Wine and cheese were made to be paired. The ideal cheese board will pair with red wine, white wine and sparkling! Depending on the size of your group, we suggest opening all three bottles of wine to taste them side by side to find your favourite pairing!
Crisp, dry white wines
Crisp, lighter-bodied white wines such as the iconic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or Sparkling pair well with fresh, un-ripened cheeses such as mozzarella, feta and burrata. Some of our favourite pairing of fresh, young and soft cheeses are Peregrine Rose, Maude Sauvignon Blanc or Quartz Reef Method Traditionnelle . We love to pair the blue cheese with an acidic, off-dry Riesling such as the Rippon Mature Vine Riesling.
Wine Buying Tip: Wines from New Zealand are produced in a cooler climate; this is one of the Southernmost wine regions in the world. The cooler climate contributes to a higher acid structure and lighter-bodied wines.
Fruit forward, medium-bodied white wines
White wines that are more fruit-forward and medium-bodied with subtle oak pair well with creamy cheeses like Brie or Camembert. We’d highly recommend the Chard Farm Judge & Jury Chardonnay to pair with your soft, buttery cheeses.
Fruit forward red wines
Aged cheeses pair perfectly with the medium-heavy bodied, complex tannin structure and gorgeous fruit profile on a Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. These cheeses include Tasty, Manchego or Parmigiano-Reggiano. While we don’t have any of these heavy-bodied wines in Central Otago, the Terra Sancta Pinot Noir pairs beautifully one of these hard cheeses. If you are looking for that more medium-full bodies New Zealand Wines, we recommend the Esk Valley Cab-Merlot-Malbec blend from Hawke’s Bay.
Step 3: Building + Beautifying Your Board
Photo: Alpine Image Co
Now that all the hard work is done, it’s time for the fun part: building your board! Since cheese is the main event here, we recommend placing the cheese down first. Place them in distinct areas of the board to showcase each cheese. Next, place the cured meats in between the cheeses for a clear visual contrast. Then, add the crackers and bread (your cheese vehicles) in the gaps. Finally, then layer and spread in all the remaining ingredients out to artistically fill in all the spaces. The goal here is to make the board look abundant and beautiful, but visually balanced and decadent.
Step 4: Enjoy!
Sit back and enjoy your beautiful creation + a glass of wine with your guests.
Other Tips & Tricks
- Taking your cheese board on a picnic, boat or BBQ? Think about bringing canned wine rather than glass bottles. They are easier to pack-in and pack-out and no worries about breaking the glass bottles. If you are bringing glass bottles, be sure to select a screw-cap wine.
- Be sure to take your cheeses out of the refrigerator 30-45 minutes before serving, so that the cheese is just below room temperature.
- Be sure to pre-prep replenishments for the board so all you have to do while hosting is grab the replenishments and add them to the board as they run low.
- When it comes to pairing wine with cheese keep in mind that opposite flavour profiles can attract. An off-dry Riesling can pair perfectly with an Italian Parmesan, while an acidic, tart Sauvignon Blanc can be deliciously complemented by a buttery Gorgonzola.
- Taste test the wine and a bite of cheese yourself prior to serving. Your taste buds will be able to tell you if the pairing works or not.
- Keep in mind that not all wines pair well with cheese. Don’t be afraid to experiment to find out what works!
Photo: Charlotte Kiri Photography
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