While there’s nothing wrong with some cubes of cheddar served alongside cabanossi and Jatz, a special festive occasion, particularly after the year we’ve all had, deserves something more special, no? We chatted to French cheese monger and expert in all things fromage François Robin, who’s also the ambassador for the Bon Fromage Festival of European Cheeses, about how to luxe up our silly season cheese boards.
First up, François says the perfect cheese board will have a range of cheeses to make sure everyone has something they like. You can cut up the portions in advance, so guests follow your way of cutting, and no one gets left with the rind!
“Always start with the mildest cheese and finish with the strongest,” he says.
“You don’t want to overpower those taste buds first and not be able to taste anything else.”
Which cheeses should I include?
François’ must-have cheeses include: double-cream brie or Brillat-Savarin – perfect for highlighting black truffle; Comté, which can be aged up to four years and is best around the 18-24 month mark; the “decadent and runny” Époisses; and the buttery Fourme d’Ambert, which, according to François, is lesser-known when compared to Roquefort and pairs perfectly with sweet ingredients like pear, jam or gingerbread.
Once you’ve chosen your cheeses, it’s time to pack the rest of the board for the Insta-worthy shot.
“Pack the board with nuts, macadamia, honey, crackers, grapes, dried apples or mangos,” says François, “anything that will encourage people to pair their cheese with other ingredients”.
How do I match cheese to wine?
Okay, cheese done, accompaniments done. Now, to the most important part, pairing your drinks.
François says a lot of drinks will pair well with cheese, even beer, however the match that’s made in heaven is, of course, wine and cheese.
“Époisses and Chardonnay or Goats cheese and King’s Valley Sauvignon are good matches,” he says.
“New World wines are also super pairings.”
François says most white wines match well with cheese, especially those on the dryer side or with just a touch of sweetness.
Red wines pair well with heavier cheeses, however steer clear full-bodied and oaky reds if you want to avoid a metallic taste when pairing with a regular brie.
“Try fruity red wines instead, like Beaujolais,” he suggests.
Sparkling wines work well with double-cream and mild intensity cheeses, while sweet wines are the perfect match for salty cheeses like blue.
Well, there you have it. Go forth and create the ultimate festive cheese board.