There’s nothing that brings a party together better than a gorgeous, meticulously plated, charcuterie board topped with an abundant variety of savoury cheeses, jams, olives, warm baguette and fruit.
Simple to enjoy and worth appreciating, a large picturesque board is the perfect party staple to ensure your guests are well-fed while free to roam around to mix and mingle. Assembled sets are readily available at any upscale supermarket, and although it’s hard to go wrong always make sure the items are fresh and diverse. The real test to mastering this party trick is in the subtle art of wine pairing and the real pleasure is in creating your perfect board with ingredients that are exciting, delicious, trendy and hand-picked with intention.
Adding the perfect wines to match your spread can get a bit tricky and intimidating, but luckily I’m here to help with my five easy steps to elevate your next party offering.
STEP 1: Start with the Bubbles
A little bubbly always pleases everyone’s palate. I like to start off the night by serving perfectly chilled sparkling wine, prosecco or champagne in unique sparkling glasses (think about a coupe, Riedel crystalware or even other coloured vintage glassware).
Nothing hits the spot and gets a party going, better than a perfectly chilled glass of bubbles. Perfect as an aperitif, it celebrates getting together and helps to excite the palate.
Looking for a new sparkling to bring to your group, search for Franciacorta from Italy, Cava from Spain or wonderful sparkling from Ontario.
STEP 2: Say Cheese
Put a smile on every face with a board filled with eye-catching cheeses! Serve a variety from soft, to blue, to Italian, to French, English and Spanish. Explore and serve flavours from around the world. Always remember to serve them at the perfect temperature, cheese-like wine, when served at different temperatures will take on different taste profiles. Personally I am a big fan of cheese’s served just slightly under room temperature. This way you can spread soft cheese like butter.
Light to medium-bodied white wines will complement the complex flavours of each type of cheese you pick. If you’re looking for a few interesting pairings, try Blue cheese and Riesling Icewine, Franciacorta and Parmesan Reggiano, and Bourgogne with Bourgogne Blanc.
Tip: To make a picture-perfect board, choose a dramatic wooden board to put all of your items on and serve your cheese mostly whole and in large pieces so to show off the amazing shapes and make the board camera ready.
STEP 3: Stack up the Meat
One thing I know for sure works when it comes to food and wine pairings – if you always match the colour of your wine with the colour of your food, the pairings work out. For red meats, make sure to pair them with a finely-aged red wine for a robust and decadent pairing.
Viña Tarapaca Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon goes perfectly with a beautifully curated charcuterie board. A feast for the senses with seductive aromas of dill, bay leaf and just a hint of lavender, this is the ultimate wine to highlight your selection. To keep things exciting and adventurous for the party, pick types of charcuterie you might not regularly try. Head into your local butcher and look for interesting items like wild boar prosciutto, neck and duck sausages. You’ll impress your friends and try something new all at the same time.
Think about offering various bodied red wines based on the taste profiles of the meat. For meats offering more of a stronger or bolder taste think rustic and old world wine pairings. You can never go wrong with wines from the Rhône Valley, or even Puglia or Sicily, they all can offer a complimentary taste profile. Pinot Noir is always great to have on hand for softer cheese (you can head to Burgundy, France or Ontario for great bottles). Also, you can serve other full-bodied reds and even Rosé wines for a full tasting experience and pairing pleasure.
STEP 4: Add the Accoutrement
Garnishing is key! Finish your beautiful spread with a nice selection of fresh baguette, salted nuts, savoury warm olives and fine premium crackers. Add in cheese knives and even some sweet/spicy jam, fig jelly or balsamic vinegar for the icing on the cake. Don’t forget to serve on real plates, offer linen napkins, and make sure you’ve got perfect lighting (candles or a fireplace never hurt!) and you’ve got an elegant, delicious and wonderful entertaining mix.
STEP 5: Taste Together
Personally, I love offering a full wine bar for my guests. I open 6 or more wines and leave them out encouraging everyone to pour a 1-2 ounce tasting throughout the evening. This way guests can talk about the wines together and get involved in the adventure of the tasting experience. Typically every bottle holds 10-15 “tasting servings” and I like to estimate at least one bottle of wine per person when hosting.
Remind everyone to try to experiment with all of the various cheeses, meats and wines and see if they have a preference. We are all built with different preferences on our palates, so promote a little debate and conversation and a good time will be had by all.