We’ve spoken to cheese experts from Paxton & Whitfield, The Courtyard Dairy, La Fromagerie and Neal’s Yard Dairy to get their tips and tricks on how to build a delicious Christmas cheese board.
Below, they share advice on the types of cheeses to choose, how to serve and what to pair them with.
See our best food and drink for all our top festive picks including mince pies, Christmas pudding, champagne, red wine, roast potatoes and gravy.
Christmas cheese board tips
1. Less is more
‘My formula for creating the perfect cheese board is ‘less is more’. I’d suggest three or four cheeses that offer different styles, textures and flavours. A hard cheese, a blue, a soft cheese and a cheese that is slightly different is all that you need.’ Hero Hirsh, head of retail, Paxton & Whitfield
2. Don’t eat it straight from the fridge
‘Take cheese out the fridge an hour before serving so it can get to room temperature. Leave it wrapped until the last moment to stop it drying out and ensure more volatile flavours and smells are kept trapped in.’ Andy Swinscoe, owner, The Courtyard Dairy
3. Choose accompaniments wisely
‘Plain crackers offer a good base without crowding the flavour of the cheese. Caramelised onion chutney is a great all-rounder and quince paste goes well with a number of cheeses, particularly blues. Grapes and apples work well as a palate cleanser between cheeses.’ Hero Hirsh, head of retail, Paxton & Whitfield
4. Pair with port
‘A fine aged Tawny port with its savoury notes is always a winner. If you don’t want Port or a classic Bordeaux wine, then choose an IPA or micro brewed ale.’ Patricia Michelson, founder & director, La Fromagerie
5. Buy from a cheesemongers
‘If you can, go to a cheesemonger’s to select your Christmas cheese. Not only will they be able to help you with portion sizes, selections and cheese care advice, they’ll also be able to tell you what tastes great right now.’ Ellen Hunter, events manager, Neal’s Yard Dairy
If you prefer pudding over cheese – see our best Christmas pudding for 2020.
Four cheeses to try this Christmas
Andy Swinscoe, owner of The Courtyard Dairy, shares four lesser-known British cheeses that are worth seeking out this Christmas.
- Fellstone – this Dales-style cheese is supple but with a lactic freshness and buttery-rich flavour.
- Winslade – the love-child of classic soft cheeses, Vacherin and Camembert. This creation is so oozy, you’ll need a spoon to serve it.
- St Andrew’s Cheddar – a Scottish cheddar aged for over 12 months. It has a sharp powerful bite and farmhouse tang.
- Darling Blue – a two month old blue cheese with a rich flavour but delicate blueing.
Which wines go with cheese?
Wine experts Charles Metcalfe and Kathryn McWhirter actually recommend serving just one cheese with a perfectly matched wine. This is because ‘some cheeses react with some wines to give weird flavours, and it’s almost impossible to find a single wine that will pair well with all the different cheese styles on a random cheeseboard.’
But where do you start? Charles and Kathryn share their top tips on picking the perfect pairing:
- White wines (or gently sweet wines) often match better than reds.
- One of the great cheese and wine combinations is sweet wine and blue cheese – think Stilton and port, Roquefort and Sauternes. Aged tawny port is far better with Stilton than LBV or vintage port.
- Brie is not easy, but gentle low-tannin reds such as Beaujolais or reds from the south of France work.
- Camembert is easier, with Rioja Reserva and Châteauneuf-du-Pape the best choices, closely followed by red Burgundy or other Pinot Noirs.
- Good cheddar partners well with a variety of reds, the more mature the cheese, the better the match. Top choices are Douro red (or Touriga Nacional) from Portugal, Italian Rosso di Montalcino, red Burgundy or Rioja Reserva. If you prefer white, Chardonnay, Albariño or Australian dry Riesling are all good.
Do you drink red, white or both? See our round-up of the best red wine.