Tips for Hosting a Wine and Cheese Party
Nothing gets the conversation going like a group of friends and a few bottles of wine. Throw in some cheeses and finger foods, and you’ve got a party! Check out our tips for hosting a classic wine and cheese night.
Tip 1: Determine when you’re hosting and who your guests will be
Choose a date more than a month away and at least a month before or after the holidays. This will help guests add it to their calendars before they are booked up.
An ideal wine and cheese party size is about 15 guests. That way, guests can mingle with multiple people. Mixing familiar faces with new ones keeps the conversation lively. If you want a couple-oriented vibe, invite your friends and their partners. If you want an intimate wine night, invite only four to five of your closest friends.
Decide on how you’d like to send your invitations. If you’d like to keep it relaxed, it’s as easy as texting all of your friends with the date and time. If you’d like some help tracking your guest list, consider using Paperless Post or Evite. A simple email to your guests with your party details also works.
Tip 2: Decide what kind of wine party you’d like to throw
Are you looking for an excuse to showcase your knowledge of local wineries? Do you know a lot about wines from the French, South African, or New Zealand areas that you’d like to highlight? Or would you like to feature some of the wines that you know you and your friends all enjoy?
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Different Regions. Select a type of wine and have a wine expert help you source the same type of wine from different regions around the world. For example, if you like Pinot Noirs from California, ask for help choosing wine from the Burgundy region of France or a Mencìa from Spain.
- Different Vintages. Select one or two of your favorite wines and buy several different vintages. Ask guests if they can discern how their flavor profile was affected by that year’s climate. Grapes from cooler regions tend to have lower sugar content and higher acidity, while grapes grown in warmer climates tend to be smoother and sweeter.
- Blind Wine Tasting. This option is always great for encouraging good conversation! Set out some wine in carafes and have everyone guess what they’re drinking. Prizes also foster competition!
- Everyone Brings Their Own Wine. This takes the burden off of you to provide everything. Do not choose this option if you are carefully pairing wine or cheese with the wines you personally selected.
To explore other theme ideas, try searching for the keywords below:
- French Café
- Wine Bar
- Wine Night
- Girls’ Night
Tip 3: Build your menu
Plan to set out some easy finger foods (olives, nuts, crudités) before guests arrive for them to help themselves and nibble on as they sip their first glasses.
Be sure to serve many snacks and appetizers in addition to cheese, especially if people are serving themselves generous pours. At the very least, serve sliced baguettes or crackers near your seating area. More filling appetizers could be charcuterie boards, grazing tables, passed appetizers, or a self-serve build-an-appetizer station.
One bottle of wine serves 2 to 4 people for the night, depending on how much wine everyone wants to drink. So, if you have 15 guests make sure you have a minimum of 8 bottles of wine. If you know your guests are enthusiastic drinkers, buy anywhere from 12–15 bottles of wine for the night.
Here are some wine ideas:
- Serve a crisp, non-oaky white like a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, or Viognier.
- Serve a red that isn’t too heavy (Pinot Noir or Zinfandel).
- Serve champagne from France, sparkling wine from your local wine country, Cava (from Spain), or Prosecco (from Italy).
For a classic wine and cheese party, try some of these traditional pairings when making your cheese selections:
- Pinot Noir and Gruyere
- Aged Port and Blue Stilton
- Champagne and Brie
- Moscato and Gorgonzola
- Prosecco and Asiago
- Sauvignon Blanc and Goat Cheese
- Cabernet Sauvignon and Aged Cheddar
- Rosé and Havarti
- Chianti Classico and Pecorino
- Malbec and Edam
- Shiraz and Gouda
Tip 4: Prepare ahead of time
One of the keys to successful party hosting is staying relaxed. Prepare as much as you can ahead of time so that you can join the party when your guests arrive.
Make a planning checklist to guarantee that nothing is forgotten. Your checklist should include your grocery and liquor store items, decorations, and tasks you need to finish around the house. Make sure to set up trash cans in your entertaining area.
- Red wine should breathe before it is served. If it is a lighter red wine, allow for 30 minutes after decanting before serving. Bolder reds should breathe for 1–2 hours before you drink them.
- White wine should be chilled for a minimum of 2.5 hours. In a pinch, you can put them in the freezer for 20–25 minutes.
- Figure out how long it will take you to clean up your place.
- Based on your calculations, decide if you will prepare some of the appetizers the day before.
- Decorate as much as you can the day before. Move your tables. Place your candles and set out your TableTopics cards.
- Have enough suitable wine glasses on hand to accommodate everyone. To prevent spills, stock up on stemless wine glasses.
- Make sure to have two to three corkscrews on hand. Traditional corkscrews can be purchased online or picked up in almost any supermarket. Or, up your game by buying a lever-style corkscrew opener. They seamlessly open wine bottles without requiring much force.
- Be sure to include at least one “hydration station” where guests can serve themselves water.
- Napkins, napkins, napkins.
Tip 5: Set the mood with festive decorations
Decorate your space to set your party’s mood. Hang something festive on your front door or place a nice potted plant at your entrance.
If your wine theme is region-based, decorate with décor from places around the world that correspond to your wine’s origin. For visual interest, lay bunches of grapes around your wine bottles and on your serving area. Purchase some cork coasters to set your wine bottles on.
Tip 6: Give your guests a warm welcome
Before your guests arrive, it’s important to set the mood with good music. Spotify and Apple Music both have many options for party playlists. If you’re feeling creative, build your own.
When your guests arrive at the front door, take their coats, and show them around the party space. Show them where the restroom is, where they can find their personal items, and where the main event is.
If guests brought you a hosting gift, graciously accept and, if it’s wine, decide if you will serve it. It is okay not to open it the night of the party if you have carefully built your menu around the wines you chose.
Tip 7: Give them something to talk about
Mingling makes a good wine night. Encourage guests to get to know each other better by placing TableTopics cards throughout your event space.
Lay some conversation starter cards out next to the wine. Or, every time you hand a guest a drink, hand them a TableTopics card too. Encourage each guest to take their card, find a person they haven’t met before, and share their answers with each other.
If you want one group activity, host a mid-party game of TableTopics to bring everyone together.
Ideal TableTopics sets for a wine party are:
Tip 8: Reflect on your night
How did your night go? Which wine was the biggest hit? Which cheese was almost gone by the end of the evening and what helped the conversations flow? Now, put your feet up for a while and start planning your next party!