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.
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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. Get your quantities right
‘We usually advise about 100g of cheese in total per person, but the amount you need may vary depending on what else you’re serving it with.’ Stephen Fleming, owner, George & Joseph
4. 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
5. 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
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6. 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
7. Look after leftovers
‘Keep leftover cheese wrapped in waxed paper to prevent it drying out and cracking – never use cling film or you’ll get a sweaty cheese. Store washed rind cheeses in a separate sealed container to prevent their strong aroma permeating the rest of your cheese.’ Clare Jackson, director, Slate Cheese
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How to choose the best Christmas cheese
Ruth Raskin, cheese care & quality manager at The Fine Cheese Co., says ‘the backbone of a good cheese board is nearly always a hard, a soft and a blue cheese’.
Whether you want to stick to tradition, or try something a little different, here are Ruth’s top picks for a delicious Christmas cheese board.
‘A classic, clothbound Somerset Cheddar is always welcome, but you may like to ring the changes with a crumbly and tangy Kirkham’s Lancashire, or venture further afield with a nutty Comté from the Jura mountain range in France’.
‘Both Colston Bassett and Cropwell Bishop will satisfy your stilton cravings – or you might like to try Stichelton, which has become a modern classic amongst cheese aficionados.
‘Alternatively, indulge in a rich, creamy and spicy Gorgonzola Piccante or a sweet and mellow Cashel Blue from Tipperary’.
‘If you’re feeling traditional, then Brie de Meaux will be your cheese of choice. You could also opt for a British version of this style of cheese, such as Baron Bigod from Suffolk or Tunworth from Hampshire.
‘Other Christmas favourites include cheeses that are so gooey you need to spoon rather than cut them. The most famous of these is Vacherin Mont d’Or, but others include Little Rollright, a silky, unctuous treasure of a cheese from Gloucestershire, or the rich-as-custard Tortita el Esprimijo, which has a refreshingly zesty finish.’
Prefer pudding over cheese? Check out our roundup of alternative Christmas puddings.
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.