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How to Host a Cheese Tasting

Created January 10, 2017
Turn a boring appetizer platter with some chunks of hastily arranged cheese into something special. Let a cheese tasting take an evening with friends an exciting direction. You’ll not only enjoy your friends; you’ll enlighten them.

Discover just how to organize the cheese tasting and weigh up the differences in the cheese you choose to taste. And, naturally—just like cheese, here are easy ideas for hosting tasting parties with all kinds of themes, any time of year!

Cheese 101

  • Take time to learn about cheese.  Our All About Cheese is one way.  Attending a class or reading up on cheese from a book or online is another.
  • Decide what cheese you think your guests would enjoy and like to learn about. One variety, different places?  Cheese of your favorite part of the world—or where you’d love to travel?  Make choices by the season.  Cheddars in the fall, blue-veined cheese in winter, chèvre (goat) cheese in warmer months.
  • Create a well-balanced cheese plate with 3 varieties of cheese, chosen for appearance, taste and texture. Include at least one sure to be enjoyed by even the pickiest of eaters.
  • Try the wonderful artisan cheeses available at reasonable prices in groceries, specialty shops, at farmers’ markets and online.
  • For more selection ideas, see Varieties of Natural Cheese Chart.

How Much Is Enough

  • Plan to serve 1 to 2 ounces cheese per guest for appetizers, 2 to 3 ounces cheese per guest for heartier eating—when cheese and its accompaniments replace a meal.
  • If your guest list isn’t too large, plan these tastings for your dining table.  Cheeses can be portioned out on large dinner plates, tasted in order from mildest to most pungent.  Add some of the accompaniments and have others to pass. This plan makes it easier to have a discussion and share what you’ve learned about the cheese chosen.
  • For a more informal tasting buffet, arrange cheese with creative food label cards naming them and their characteristics. Provide a separate serving knife or cutter for each type of cheese.

Tasting Notes

  • Most cheeses should stand at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour before serving. Keep covered until serving to prevent drying out.
  • Compare each cheese based on these five characteristics:
  • Appearance/Aroma: First impression of the look and smell before tasting.
  • Texture:  The feel of the cheese in your mouth as you chew it.
  • Flavor:  The total impression of aroma and texture combined with the flavors you discover as your taste buds are stimulated.  Identify specific taste attributes:  earthy, buttery, sharp, caramel-like, nutty, milky, peppery, herbal, tart, pungent, grassy and smoky.
  • Finish:  The flavors that remain after tasting.  The big question:  Do you like it?

Two Favorite Cheese Tasting Party Plans

Warm Hearts, Cold Night: Cheese plate with no-fuss dinner

Selection of Wisconsin Natural Cheeses [many are Italian style]
Warm Roasted Pecans
Dried Fruits—including cranberries and cherries
Cracker Assortment
Cider, ale-style beer, wine matched to cheese

Italian Sausage Soup
Italian Bread

Sugar-Kissed Apple Pie
Or Caramel Apple Bars

Warm Hearts, Warm Night: Cheese tasting with appetizers

Selection of French or French-style Soft Cheeses
Baguette-style French bread
Melon and Prosciutto
Cucumber Slices Provençal
Sparkling water, white wine—could be sparkling—matched to cheese

Make It Special!

  • Cheese is an essential element of the Spanish cocktail hour custom of tapas.  Is there a tapas gathering in your plans?
  • The clever Appetizer Cracker Basket is sure to impress when you have the time.
  • Have your camera handy.  It’s the perfect kind of party for snapping photos of friends.  And, another reason to ‘say cheese.’


Search for recipes by types of cheese you need to use up.
Fondue anyone?