Entertaining | How to create a great Christmas cheeseboard


How to create a great Christmas cheeseboard

The question I’m often asked at this time of year is what makes the perfect Christmas cheeseboard. It’s as difficult a question as what makes the perfect Christmas lunch.

If you like - or your family expect - roast turkey and Christmas pudding that’s the perfect lunch for you. If you don’t it may be something quite different.

The theory behind a cheeseboard is to offer cheeses of different textures, flavours and shapes so that it looks attractive, includes a variety of tastes and everyone can find a cheese they like. These are the cheeses and styles that I would go for - leaving out stinky French cheeses which are best left to consenting adults ;-)

1) Stilton. In Britain this is the quintessential Christmas cheese and to be honest it’s hard to better it. The only cheese that arguably has the edge is Stichelton which is made to the same recipe but from raw milk (all Stilton these days is pasteurised) it’s slightly stronger than Stilton - a great blue cheese in my opinion. Try it with sloe gin, a delicious alternative to port

8 great drinks to match with Stilton

2) A good cheddar has a lot going for it. Most people like cheddar and you can always use it for cooking afterwards. The only issue is how strong it should be - some of the artisanal cheddars like Keen’s can be pretty funky though I do like a good Montgomery and my new favourite, Trethowan Brothers' Pitchfork.

The best wine pairings for cheddar cheese

3) A semi-soft white-rinded cheese such as Brie or Camembert
Another popular choice but one that can cause trouble if you allow it to get overripe - i.e. at the stage where it’s virtually running off the cheeseboard a) because it won’t last very long and b) may well ruin whatever red you’re drinking with it. Try a similar English cheese such as a Tunworth or Baron Bigod.

Six of the best pairings for brie

4) A goats' cheese
Not everyone likes goats cheese but it’s so versatile and, if you buy a young cheese, not particularly ‘goaty’. You can also use it to spread on crackers for a between blow-outs snack or to make a quick starter salad with some beets and leaves. And it goes with most dry wines (particularly with crisp whites like sauvignon blanc)

Top wine pairings with goat cheese

5) A sheep cheese
I like a hard sheep cheese on a cheeseboard, both because it’s the best type of cheese to match with a good red wine and because it means you have something to offer any guests who are dairy-intolerant. Good examples are Berkswell, aged Pecorino and Manchego (though try and find a matured version - supermarket Manchego can be bland) Also useful for rustling up some impromptu tapas with a few almonds, olives and slices of chorizo.

The best wine matches for sheep cheeses

Stand-alone cheeses
There’s nothing wrong with having one impressive cheese rather than a whole board of them. Stilton and cheddar could both perform this role but I quite like to offer something a bit unusual like a Vacherin Mont d’Or (which you can also bake in its box and serve hot like a fondue) or an aged Gouda. Deep orange Mimolette also looks wonderfully festive on a board decorated with apricots, figs and dates.

The best wine pairings for Vacherin Mont d'Or

For more festive inspiration and other cheeseboard ideas see my book Fiona Beckett's Cheese Course.

Photo © Tatyana Berkovich at shutterstock.com

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Comments: 2 (Add)

Fiona Beckett on December 2 2013 at 17:03

Sorry, Dave - don't know how I missed this! Yes, think a dry oloroso would be delicious

daveinbalmain on July 30 2013 at 12:28

Hi Fiona
Wine match for Reypenaer? I've tried Amontillado as well as quite big reds. I wonder whether Oloroso would be a good match. What do you think?


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