Image Credit: Jordan Johnson, Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/winestyr/8692988715
The weather is getting colder and the nights are getting darker. While the pull of bars is as strong as ever, good food and drink (without the walk in the rain) becomes ever more appealing. Wine and cheese nights can often seem unapproachable, expensive and downright difficult to pull off. But, if you know where to look, that doesn't have to be the case. It’s a great way to change up socialising with your housemates, date night or even a solo dinner, if you’re feeling indulgent!
If it is an intimate occasion...
Put emphasis on scoping out a couple of bottles of wine that you really love, and some cheeses that really sing as a pairing. Admittedly, there is some snobbery around wine. However, Aldi has some delicious, inexpensive options. It’s important to find a wine that pairs well with your cheeses – otherwise, it can leave a seriously bad taste in your mouth. For example, with brie, thanks to its spritzy tropical fruit and earthy grassiness, a New Zealand sauvignon blanc pairs beautifully. With aged cheddar, the optimum pairing is a Bordeaux, but a good one can come at a price. Instead, a smooth cabernet sauvignon, with sumptuous oaky black fruit flavours works just as well as a chutney with a mature, umami-rich cheese. Alongside a strong blue cheese such as Stilton, the sticky sweetness of tawny port or sauternes is perfect. However, a sweet, aromatic riesling would offset the strong funk of a blue gorgeously. From Aldi, try:
- Freeman’s Bay Sauvignon Blanc, £5.49.
- Blütengarten German Riesling, £4.49.
- Kooliburra Cabernet Sauvignon, £4.49.
While the basic cheese board should have a soft cheese, a blue cheese, and a hard cheese
as a standard, it never hurts to just choose one or two of your favourites. Alternatively, if you want more of a range, deli counters are perfect, as buying just enough is a great way to reduce both costs and waste - I’ve found that Morrison’s deli has the best, cheap options.
If it is a group event....
More cheese, more wine, of course. If you want a variety of cheese to choose from, selection packs are a great starting point. Most supermarkets offer selections with upwards of three kinds of cheese, usually Cheddar, Stilton and Wensleydale or Brie from £3! Additionally, buying some extras such as buffalo mozzarella or goat’s cheese is an inexpensive way to elevate your selection, whilst ensuring everybody has enough. Something I like to do, depending on the available budget, is to ask everybody what their favourite cheese is, and buy one of each. And it goes without saying that filling out the cheese board with crackers, grapes, and chutneys is a great way to get more bang for your buck.
As for the wine, while I will continue to sing Aldi’s praises, there are even cheaper ways to get great wines for a group. My top tip here is to search for ‘Mix 6’ offers, which are perfect for buying a lot of wine cheaply. Majestic Wine is ideal for this, with huge savings when you buy six or more bottles, and some hidden gems to discover. Alternatively, supermarkets often do bulk-buy offers with reductions as large as 25 percent. Of course, if you can’t possibly drink that much wine, it shouldn’t go off provided you drink it within a year or two. These six wines from Majestic are all delightful with cheese:
- La Gioiosa Prosecco Treviso, DOG, £7.99 – light pear and stone fruit, easy-drinking and a real crowd pleaser. Do shop around in the supermarkets, as this is often on offer!
- Acacia Road Chenin Blanc, £5.99 – refreshing tropical fruit flavours, with a fresh yet honeyed finish, the perfect accompaniment to cheddar.
- Louis Felipe Edwards Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc/Viognier, £5.49 – sweet tooth? This will be perfect, as it pairs amazingly with Stilton and may even satisfy any wine haters!
- Floração Rosé 2019, £6.99 – strawberry, raspberry, with a long acidic finish. Slightly pricier but delicious with tangy Goat Cheese.
- Majestic Mulled Wine, £5.49 – off-piste, but delicious (and festive!).The sweetness is great with Wensleydale or Comte.
- Stone Arka Merlot, 2017, £4.99 – easy drinking with notes of black fruit and plum, balanced tannins. Merlot is a versatile grape that complements brie, gruyere or cheddar amazingly.
What if somebody does not drink?
With the choice of soft drinks available in supermarkets now, non-drinkers need not feel left out! San Pellegrino Aranciata Rosso is a delicious side for cheese, with the acidity and sweetness to counter the salty, umami flavours and the bubbles cut through the fat. Otherwise, dark fruit cordials with a sharp citrus mixer would work perfectly.
What about entertainment?
No cheese and wine night is complete without a great playlist – though this is subject to personal taste. Personally, I can’t go without ABBA. A classic film could also be perfect. As we head into the Christmas festivities, how about Love Actually? Or, you show your competitive side with some games, though Monopoly (and the arguments that accompany) may be best avoided!
Happy wine and cheese night!