Whether you’re hosting a cheese and wine night or simply serving up the ideal finish to a dinner party, your choice of cheese can say a lot about you. Yep, a board of Babybel and Laughing Cow isn’t exactly going to be suggestive of your sense of sophistication. On the flip side, you can seriously impress guests with a carefully curated board of classics and a few curveballs, too. So, with the help of Saint Agur, here are 4 IDEAL tips for the perfect after dinner cheese board.

THINK VARIETY

A good cheese board needs balance and variety; it can’t just be a load of heavy hitting blues with no respite or contrast. As a general rule, a selection of five is ample, providing enough variety to keep everyone happy, but also not overwhelming guests with the paradox of choice.

Alongside a good wedge of creamy blue, such as Saint Agur or Roquefort, serve a flavourful aged cow’s milk cheese like Comté or Lincolnshire Poacher. For your goat’s cheese, go for something like a British Sharpham Brie or Sainte Maure de Touraine from France. Sheep’s milk cheeses provide a gentle sharpness, harder texture and great, umami heavy flavours; a young Pecorino from Italy works perfectly, and for something aromatic and spicy, Epoisses is a perfect choice. 

LEAVE BLUE TILL LAST

You’re damn right I’ve got the blues. But for your guests to enjoy your cheese selection to its full potential, it’s wise to steer them away from the blue cheese until last. It’s simple; a good blue will overpower the other flavours around the table if taken in tandem, but as an encore, it’s the perfect, lingering way to round off your meal.

To accompany that headlining blue, slices of crisp pear and freshly shelled walnuts work really well and compliment the salty, slightly spicy flavour of the cheese. We’re trying to contain our inner Pavlov reaction just thinking about it.

PAIR WISELY 

Though thoughtfully chosen cheese can quite happily stand alone on the board, it’s difficult to deny that most benefit from a foil in the form of chutneys, jams, celery sticks, nuts…you name it.

Harder cheeses like Manchego should be paired with something sticky and sweet like a quince paste (membrillo) from Spain; we just love that combination. A salty, aged cheese like the nation’s beloved cheddar (we’re currently into Cornish Davidstow) works really with grapes and/or prosecco, as if you needed an excuse! Drizzle a little honey over goat’s cheese for a deliciously sweet hit to counteract the savoury flavours, or it works equally well with a caramelised onion chutney. 

The list goes on but the point remains the same; thoughtful partners for your cheese board are almost as important as the cheese selection itself. 

THERE’S MORE THAN RED

Christmas around the Great British dining table seems to have it ingrained in all of us; you’re drinking port with your cheese board or you’re going thirsty. But if you’re looking for an alternative to red wine or port as a companion to your cheese, a chilled Madeira or Sauternes provides a perfect balance to your board (and shows just a little touch of class, too). Equally, impress your guests with a full-bodied white wine with a bit of oak age; the best match for most cow’s milk cheeses.