Neil’s tips for presenting your cheese board

A well-presented cheese board with a good balanced with colour and taste makes a perfect appetizer or serve it just before dessert.

  • One hour before serving unwrap the cheeses and prepare them on the cheese board.
  • When cutting a cheese ensure that every portion contains some of the rind.  It is usually riper at the rind and the flavour intensity increases towards the rind.
  • To make it easier to cut the cheese it’s a good idea to dip the knife in hot water, particularly the blue cheeses.
  • If you do not possess the ideal knife, choose a knife with a long rigid blade
  • Cut the cheese portions cleanly and make them of equal size.
  • Keep the cutting knife clean; you can use either a piece of bread or hot water.  This prevents carryover of flavours from one cheese to another.
  • The shapes, sizes, textures and colours should have variety.  Consider a pyramid, log shapes, rounds and wedges. Colours; the grey/green blue-veined Blues, the brown-orange of a washed rind, the golden yellow of the Cheddar, and white fresh cheeses.
  • Try to make the cheese board visually appealing.  The first eye contact with the cheese board will create an impression.  Label the cheeses to stimulate discussion your guests.
  • Your presentation should leave enough surface area to allow air to circulate between the cheeses, preventing them from absorbing each other’s flavours.
  • Garnish the board with a mixture of colours and compatible foods between the cheeses.  Include items like cherry tomatoes, grapes, slices of apples, pears, strawberries, melon slices (avoid acidic fruits like oranges that clash with the cheese) toasted almonds, pistachios or black walnuts, smoked salmon, handmade sausages, venison, ripe figs and fig paste.
  • A cheese board is not complete without the complement of bread and wine.  Use bread made by a human!  French baguette with its crusty surface and soft inside or a brown bread for the fresh cheese types both work well. Choose a wine that does not have an over dominant character otherwise the flavours of the cheeses will not be appreciated.
  • Start with the mild cheeses and work your way up to the stronger ones.

Some general guidelines:

  • Balance the flavour strength of the cheese with the flavour strength of the wine
  • The whiter and fresher the cheese, the whiter and crisper the wine
  • The darker and stronger the cheese, the darker and stronger the wine
  • The more pungent the cheese you choose, the sweeter the wine should be
  • Many of those sweeter whites nicely complement a full range of cheeses
  • Additionally, the “sparkle” in a sparkling wine or champagne can help break through the fat in heavier cheeses.
  • For a safer bet when serving several wines, choose Parmesan or vintage Cheddar cheeses. They match well with most wines
  • White wines match best with soft cheeses and stronger flavours
  • Red wines match best with hard cheeses and milder flavours
  • Fruity and sweet white wines (not dry) and dessert wines work best with a wider range of cheeses
  • Sweet cheeses (e.g. Vintage harder cheese) match well with most wines

Suggested matches:

Mild and Tasty Cheddar

  • Chardonnay
  • Merlot

Extra Tasty and Vintage

  • Cabernet Sauvignon and
  • Shiraz, Dessert and fortified wines

Young and long life white mould cheeses 

  • Sauvignon blanc
  • Sparkling white wine

Aged white mould cheeses

  • Chardonnay
  • Rose
  • Cabernet sauvignon Pinot Noir

A young mild washed rind

  • Pinot noir, Cabernet Franc,
  • Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris   

Stronger and more mature washed rind

  • Dessert or fortified wine
  • Sparkling red
  • Parmesan
  • Chardonnay
  • Shiraz
  • Ports and sherries
  • Sparkling wines

Fresh curd cheeses or goat’s cheese

  • Sauvignon Blanc

Blue Cheese

  • Medium bodied reds, Port, Late harvest whites

Enjoy! Read more about Neil Willman here.