When it comes to holiday entertaining, it’s hard to beat the fun and ease of a wine and cheese party. It is such an effortless gathering considering there is rarely, if any, cooking and prep time involved other than shopping and setup. How do you find perfect wine for cheese pairing?

The menu can be as simple as wine and cheese. But if you want to have more substantial food offerings, you can add crusty breads and other complementing foods such as charcuterie, olives and nuts or an array of fruits such as pears, apples and grapes.

Wine and cheese have many similar characteristics, even the language used to describe them. Fermentation, acidity, light-bodied versus full-bodied, region identity, and even the “terroir” are used to describe cheese. Cheese is deeply connected to the animal from whose milk it’s made and to the animal’s environment. A cheese made from the milk of a goat that was feeding on the juniper grasses on the hillside pastures of Corsica will have a definite “terroir,” just as red wines include flavors and aromas from eucalyptus trees growing close to the vines from which its grapes are grown.

In the past, most of us followed the time-honored rule of “pair cheese and wines that share the same home.” Italian gorgonzola with chianti and French brie with Champagne. But the rule is not as sensible when you consider what wine to pair with cheese made from the cows of Wisconsin.

It’s not that some of the rules should be disregarded. It’s just sometimes best to use them as a starting point and then let your taste buds create new rules!

Stick with reputable wine and cheese retailers to guide you on specifics while helping you stay within budget. And keep in mind that quality is better than quantity. Here are some of my favorite combinations.

Happy celebrating!

Sparkling wine and brie

THE VALUE

  • NV Zonin Sparkling Wine, Italy (about $14 retail)

THE SPLURGE

  • NV Gaston Chiquet Champagne, France (about $49 retail)

 

Sauvignon blanc and chevre goat cheese

THE VALUE

  • 2015 Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand (about $14 retail)

THE SPLURGE

  • 2015 Bell Sauvignon Blanc, California (about $16 retail)

 

Chardonnay and camembert

THE VALUE

  • 2014 Apaltagua Chardonnay, Chile (about $11 retail)

THE SPLURGE

  • 2015 Paul Hobbs Chardonnay, California (about $40 retail)

 

Merlot and pecorino fresca

THE VALUE

  • 2014 McManisFamily Vineyards Merlot, California (about $12 retail)

THE SPLURGE

  • 2014 Robert Mondavi Merlot, California (about $26 retail)

 

Cabernet sauvignon and aged gouda

 THE VALUE

  • 2014 McNab Ridge Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $15 retail)

THE SPLURGE

  • 2013 Spann Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $30 retail)

 

Port and Stilton

THE VALUE

  • Dow’s Late BottledVintage Port, Portugal (about $25 retail)

THE SPLURGE

  • Graham’s 10-Year-Old Tawny Port, Portugal (about $45 retail)