Two words. Cheese orphans. Ever heard of cheese orphans?! They are called different things at different markets, but I will always call them ‘cheese orphans’. When your deli clerk cuts up huge cheese wheels for individual sale, he will be left with several tiny pieces that are too small for anyone to really use. These are cheese orphans. They really are just for sampling and are typically only a few dollars. This is a fun way to try all new kinds of cheeses without breaking the bank.
So my first recommendation would be to buy cheese orphans to sample. I would honestly stop in the deli section FIRST since the cheese orphan selection will vary from day to day depending on what the deli clerk is cutting. Once you have your cheeses, THEN head to the wine section!
I typically get 3 cheese orphans per bottle of wine. So, if it is just a date night at home, hubby and I will drink one bottle, I would get 3 cheeses. If we are going to have friends over and will go through 2-3 bottles, I would get 6-9 samples.
I got these 5 cheese orphans for under $10! Some of these sell for up to $25 per pound!
Now, as a very, VERY basic place to start- I put older cheese, stinky cheese and hard cheese with red wines. Newer cheese and soft cheese with white. Wine and cheese pairing to the Sommelier or advanced wine drinker is a science and an art. Wine and cheese pairing to the average wine drinker is an adventure!! Even if you get a cheese that you absolutely hate, or that goes terribly with your wine, learn from it. There is huge value in this and it is a great and effective way to develop your palette!
When creating the cheese tray, lay them out so you can easily get to any one cheese. You don’t want them literally piled on so you have to dig to get to what you want! I also like to make labels (fun washi tape and toothpicks!!) for each cheese, so everyone knows exactly what they are getting.
You really do need to have crackers on your cheese tray. Crackers can help get your palette back to ‘neutral’ between cheeses.
Fruit. This is a controversial one. Grapes technically do not belong on a cheese tray or in a wine tasting at all. But they are SO pretty! And I like them! So I added them to MY cheese tray. Other fruit: strawberry, apple, plum… are all very welcome on a cheese tray. I kept mine incredibly simple with just cheese, crackers, and *gasp* grapes.
Now you are ready to start tasting. To properly taste wine and cheese, take a sip of wine then take a bite of cheese. While the cheese is still lingering in your mouth, take another sip of wine. Pay attention to how the wine can change the flavor of the cheese AND how the cheese can change the flavor of the wine. Pay attention to what you like and don’t like and learn from it.Hubby and I, for example, have discovered manchego cheese. We LOVE manchego cheese! It goes with SO MANY WINES! But what we really notice is that is brings out certain characteristics in the wine that we wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. We discovered manchego out of a little cheese orphan! Maybe that is why cheese orphans will always have a special place in my heart?!
Thanks for following along in my wine journey and happy sipping!