Cheese and wine have long been two of life’s little pleasures, so it’s no surprise they remain a very popular option on a dessert menu. Even those diners who feel they may have overdone things on their first two courses will often find room to nibble at a quality cheese and sip a glass of wine.
The best after-dinner cheeseboards are those which work harmoniously with their accompanying wines, while providing a variety of tastes and textures.
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The general consensus is to offer no more than three varieties of cheese on any one cheeseboard. Any more can seem overwhelming, especially following dinner. As a rough guide, choose one mild-, one medium- and one strong-flavoured cheese. And when it comes to matching the wine, a good rule of thumb is to gradually increase the body and flavour of the wine as the complexity of the cheese flavour increases.
Mild cheeses to choose from include a Havarti, like Kapiti’s Kanuka Waxed variety, with its aromatic buttery taste. Or you may decide to opt for Mainland’s Special Reserve Gouda, a soft cheese with a subtle flavour. These varieties usually match nicely with lighter white wines, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris.
Camembert and brie are both delicious options from the medium-flavoured category. Mainland Special Reserve Camembert delights with its velvety smooth texture, while Kapiti’s Aorangi Brie offers a rich, milky taste, with just a hint of earthiness and mushrooms. These creamy types of cheese blend beautifully with oaky white wines.
And no cheeseboard would be complete without one bold variety to shake things up a bit. You might choose to go with a beautifully aged cheddar, such as Kapiti’s rich and tangy Port Wine Cheddar or a classic blue vein cheese like that from Mainland’s Special Reserve. Blue cheeses match particularly well with sweet dessert wine, such as port, Moscato or a late harvest Riesling.
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It also pays to think carefully about the other additions to a cheeseboard. Options include fresh or dried fruits, nuts, pickles and pastes.
Also take into account the seasons, so as to provide year-round variety to your cheeseboard offerings. During spring and summer, you could add fresh berries or honey, while autumn cheeseboards benefit from crisp apple. A spicy panforte might also be a nice addition during the cold winter months.
But whatever the season, stick to just two or three accompaniments, so as to make sure the cheeses remain the focus of dinner’s finale.