There is nothing quite like gathering around a charcuterie board filled with delicious meats, cheeses, and wine. If you are looking to impress your guests, then look no further than this easy guide on how to make the perfect charcuterie board.
We will walk you through everything you need to know, from choosing the right ingredients to arranging them in an attractive way.
So gather your supplies and let’s get started!
A charcuterie board that’s been expertly curated is a work of art. When complemented with the appropriate wines, it becomes a masterpiece.
You don’t need years of effort to make an amazing charcuterie board with the ideal wine pairings, unlike with the Mona Lisa. Instead, keeping to a few basic principles and simple guidelines will make the process much easier.
Plus, it’s beneficial to have a basic knowledge of cheese and charcuterie.
Homemade Charcuterie Board Rules
Charcuterie boards are easy to whip up whether you’re entertaining or preparing a simple weekday supper. All or part of the following may be found on a charcuterie board:
- Charcuterie (aka cured and preserved meats)
- Dried and/or fresh fruits
- Olives or other pickled vegetables
- Bread and crackers
- Olive oil, honey, jam, mustards, or other spreads
Meat and Cheese Basics
Select your cheeses and charcuterie first. These things will influence the wines you serve. The wine, meat, and cheese will each have a supporting role to the other components of the board.
Select at least three varieties of cheese. Choose a variety of cheeses based on the texture, saltiness, fat content, and acidity of each. Here are some suggestions:
- The acidity of fresh cheeses like ricotta and chèvre is greater.
- Hard cheeses that have been aged, such as Parmesan and Cheddar, have a saltier flavor.
- The fat content of Brie and other soft-ripened cheeses, for example, is higher.
If the charcuterie board is an appetizer, plan on serving 2 oz of meat per person. However, if the board is the main course, double this amount.
Select a variety of charcuterie depending on texture, fat, salt, and spice. Consider the creamy texture and buttery flavor of pâté versus hard, salty dry-cured salami for example.
Wine Pairing Principles
For wine pairings, concentrate on the food’s primary components of salt, fat, and acid. Salt in food will soften wine’s stronger components, such as harsh tannins or acidic bitterness. It will also enhance the perception of body on the palate at the same time.
The wine should generally be more acidic than the food you’re serving.
Fats and oils in foods complement strong red wines since the fat balances the wine’s high tannins. However, you can also select clean, tart white wines.
The combination of these ingredients gives the appearance of palate-cleansing. The acidity in the wine cuts through the richness of the meal.
To match the wine’s boldness to the dish’s, aim for a balance between them. If you’re making a charcuterie platter with delicate tastes, go with a similarly light wine.
Also, keep in mind that wines with high tannins will clash with anything spicy or pungent.
Cheeses to Choose
Here are eight various cheese and wine pairings that might help you make wonderful charcuterie boards with wines to match.
Fresh cheeses come in a wide variety of textures and tastes. Fresh and creamy with lightly salted qualities (mozzarella) or crumbly and salty with more tangy notes (feta), they may be fresh and smooth or pungent and sharp.
Types of Fresh Cheese: cream cheese, Chèvre, ricotta, mozzarella, Mozzarella di Bufala, burrata, feta, cottage cheese, Mizithra, Marscapone, Boursin, Stracchino
Wine Pairing Options: sparkling wine, light-bodied white wine, rosé wine, fruit-forward light-bodied red wine
The Wine Science: The saltier cheeses will enhance the fruit notes of high-acidity wines. These wines can also balance the acidity of fresh cheese. Fresh wine varieties are a lively contrast to the creamier cheeses.
Semi-soft cheeses are soft, mild cheeses that are aged for a few days to several months. These cheeses have a creamy texture that gets firmer with age.
Cheese varieties range from buttery to nutty (Asiago, aged Havarti), sweet and tangy (Fontina), salty and acidic (Havarti), and mild (Jack).
Types of Semi-Soft Cheese: Fontina, Monterey Jack, Asiago, Havarti
Wine Pairing Options: dry light-bodied white wine, full-bodied oaked white wine, medium-bodied red wine
The Wine Science: Fontina and Havarti are both acidic and tangy, so light-bodied white wines taste best with them. Verdicchio’s greasy texture matches the buttery tastes of semi-soft cheeses admirably.
The creamy sensation of Oaked white wines is also great. Medium-bodied red wines have the acidity to match young semi-soft cheeses. They also contain fruit or spice elements that go well with nutty cheese tastes.
With the aid of an edible mold known as Penicillium candidum, Roquefort cheese is well-known for its velvety white rind. As the cheese ages, it becomes creamier and softer inside.
On a charcuterie board, a soft-ripened cheese is often a crowd-pleaser. The creamy feel balances the salty charcuterie nicely. Expect buttery, earthy, nutty, and tangy tastes with notes of sweetness.
Types of Soft-Ripened Cheese: Brie, Camembert, Coulommiers, Robiola, Humboldt Fog
Wine Pairing Options: sparkling wine, light-bodied white wine, full-bodied white wine, aromatic white wine, fruit-forward light-bodied reds
The Wine Science: Sparkling wine and delicate white wines with light acidity go nicely together, adding a bright contrast to these rich cheeses.
The complexity and weight of full-bodied whites are in perfect balance with the cheeses’ richness. When combined with creamy chevre, fruity notes of a light-bodied crimson with higher acidity will shine.
The rind of surface-ripened cheese is often thin and oozy, or wrinkled and firmer.
These cheeses have a dense creamy texture with earthy scents and occasionally sharper tangy notes.
Types of Surface-Ripened Cheese: Crottin de Chavignol (the most famous goat cheese of the Loire Valley), Vermont Creamery’s Bijou, St. Marcellin
Wine Pairing Options: light-bodied white wine, aromatic white wine, light-bodied red wine
The Wine Science: The dense, creamy texture of these cheeses is enhanced by brightly aromatic white wines, which contrast with the earthy tastes of the cheese. Light-bodied reds with earthy or spicy aromas will have a similar impact.
The semi-hard cheese category includes a variety of firm cheeses with a high moisture content. These cheeses are often salty, nutty, or savory in flavor and taste even better with age.
Types of Semi-Hard Cheese: Gouda, Gruyère, Swiss, Emmental, Colby, Provolone, Halloumi
Wine Pairing Options: sparkling wine, light-bodied white wine, full-bodied white wine, light-bodied red wine, medium-bodied red wine
The Wine Science: The sharp and dry flavors of the cheese will complement the fruity aromas of the sparkling and light-bodied white wines. Full-bodied whites have the structure to match these firmer, bolder cheeses.
The saltiness of the cheese may also aid in the development and tannins of medium-bodied red wines.
Hard cheese is generally salty and sharp, with nutty undertones that become saltier with age. They’re more crumbly and difficult to cut than soft cheese.
Types of Hard Cheese: Cheddar, aged Manchego, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, Grana Padano
Wine Pairing Options: sparkling wine, light-bodied white wine, medium-bodied red wines, full-bodied red wines
The Wine Science: Since these cheeses get saltier with age, they can help to balance the acidity in sparkling wine and light-bodied white wine. The higher salt content also softens tannins in medium to full-bodied red wines.
In both cases, the salty cheese adds to the wine’s body and fruit characteristics.
Blue cheese comes in a variety of textures, including soft, firm, creamy, and crumbly. Some are sweeter while others are saltier. However, all blue cheeses have blue veins of mold throughout that provide strong and tangy tastes.
Types of Blue Cheese: Roquefort, Stilton, Gorgonzola
Wine Pairing Options: aromatic white wine, full-bodied red wine, dessert wine
The Wine Science: Blue cheese has a strong, salty flavor. So, fruit-forward or sweet wines balance the saltiness and pungency of the cheese. Full-bodied red wines are robust enough to handle the blue cheese’s powerful characteristics.
Washed Rind Cheese
The name “washed rind” comes from how these cheeses are washed. These cheeses are generally cleaned with salt water, brine, beer, or even brandy, and they have a distinctive pungent odor.
Types of Washed Rind Cheese: Taleggio, Appenzeller, Oxford Isis, Limburger
Because washed-rind cheeses are inherently smelly, they don’t go well with many wines. These cheeses are best enjoyed with a Belgian beer when you’re in the mood for something classic.
Selecting Your Charcuterie Theme
The majority of charcuterie is cured with salt or fermented, which means it’s quite salty and rich in fat. Wine pairing is straightforward because charcuterie is salty and has a lot of fat.
Always keep in mind the boldness of the charcuterie’s tastes and spices while selecting a wine.
Mild charcuterie goes well with a wide range of wines when there are no spicy or smoked characteristics. Creamy cheeses offer a pleasant counterpoint to these salty meats on a charcuterie platter.
Types of Charcuterie: Prosciutto, Jamón Ibérico, Mortadella, Soppressata or other dry-cured salami, summer sausage, Finnochiona, chicken liver mousse
Wine Pairing Options: sparkling wine, light-bodied or aromatic white wines, rosé wine, light or medium-bodied reds
The Wine Science: Salty cured meats benefit from a wine with high acidity. The salt will balance the acidity, allowing the aromas and fruit flavors to come through.
The amount of spices and tastes has increased significantly. As a result, your wine pairings will need to use more distinct tastes or fruit flavors to balance out the complexity.
Types of Charcuterie: Speck (smoked Prosciutto), guanciale, lardo, chorizo picante, coppa or spicy coppa, pastrami, peppered salami, foie gras
Wine Pairing Options: fruit-forward light-bodied white wine, fruit-forward light or medium-bodied red wines, full-bodied red wines
The Wine Science: The red and white wines’ fruit aromas can offer a fascinating contrast to the charcuterie’s spices. In addition, these light-bodied whites and fruit-forward reds go great with a variety of cheeses.
The rich tones, robust structure, and bold tastes of these full-bodied red wines complement the charcuterie’s more intense tastes. If you’re looking for a stronger red wine, be sure to include a salty, hard cheese or one with stronger flavors on your charcuterie platter.
If you want to open a stronger wine with more tannins, charcuterie is an excellent choice. Though aromatic white wines also provide a delightful contrast of tastes.
Types of Charcuterie: Bresaola, black truffle salami, country pâté, Jamón Ibérico de bellota, jamón serrano
Wine Pairing Options: medium or full-bodied whites with full flavors, full-bodied red wines
The Wine Science: Full-bodied whites work well with fattier pâté or full-flavored jamón. For the stronger tastes of charcuterie, reds that are bolder and more structured are a good pairing.
Other Charcuterie Board Choices
After you’ve decided on your cheeses, meats, and wines for a charcuterie board, pick the rest of your sandwich ingredients. Each may add interest to wine aromas and tastes while complementing your chosen cheeses and meats.
Fruits Dried and Fresh
Choose fruits that complement the aromas in the wines you’ll be serving, according to a good rule of thumb.
Dried fruit, such as apricots in Viognier or cherries and fresh raspberries with Pinot Noir, are two examples. Also, keep any fresh citrus off your charcuterie platter since the acidity may be tough to match with a range of wines.
Dried fruit, such as apricots, cherries, cranberries, and figs, are also available. Consider grapes, figs, raspberries, blueberries, and cherries when it comes to fresh fruits.
Nuts add a pleasant crunchiness to a charcuterie platter and a delectable salty aftertaste beside creamy cheeses. Almonds, Marcona almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, hazelnuts, and cashews are all excellent options.
Pickled Vegetables with Olives
Olives, pickled vegetables with a strong salty, tangy flavor and higher acid or fruit-forward wines go well together. Dill pickles, pickled asparagus, pickled mushrooms, and spicy pepperoncini should be avoided.
With most wines, however, these may have strong tastes or umami notes that are too abrasive. Instead, consider cornichons or marinated artichoke hearts with a mild flavor profile.
There are an infinite number of olive choices, so pick your personal favorite. Castelvetrano olives are always a crowd-pleaser because they’re meaty and buttery.
Bread and Crackers
If you’re serving several types of cheese and charcuterie, make sure to pick bread and crackers that will complement them. If soft, spreadable cheeses or pâté are on the menu, add sliced fresh baguette or toasted crostini as a base.
Oils and Spreads
You may also consider using olive oil, fruit jellies, mustards or honey with your charcuterie board. Olive oil is wonderful with fresh bread or crostini. Fruit jams are fantastic with creamy, tangy cheeses and salty mild charcuterie.
Honey is wonderful drizzled over piquant blue cheese or mustards go great with pâté. When possible, fruit jams and honeys should be paired with fruit-forward, off-dry, or sweet wines.
Arranging a Stunning Charcuterie Board
The phrase “you eat with your eyes first” is undoubtedly true here. The following are some ideas to consider when putting together a lovely charcuterie board:
- Place little dishes for olives, oils, spreads, and other ingredients on the board first. Make a triangle with each bowl serving as a corner of the triangle. This will serve as your composition’s foundation.
- Cut the cheese into cubes, triangles, or rectangles as desired. Fresh and soft-ripened cheeses, such as goat cheese or brie, should be served whole with a cheese knife.
- Then, line your cheese, charcuterie, crackers, and other items up around the ramekins. Work outward from there until all of the space is filled.
- If you have a large number of different-colored goods on your board, add some variety.
- Place each piece of charcuterie on its own board. This way, your guests won’t have to work hard to separate them. To make meats more aesthetically pleasing, roll or fold them as prosciutto.
Keep things simple if you’re unsure
Charcuterie boards should be simple to prepare, so don’t get too detailed in your planning. Choose a range of cheeses and charcuterie. After that, figure out which wine pairing styles they have in common. Consider the salt, fat, and acid in each cheese and charcuterie item before selecting a wine.
Two to three wines should be served with the charcuterie board in order to balance everyone’s taste.
When all else fails, keep these two fundamental ideas in mind. With the exception of heavy-bodied red wines and rich cheeses, most cheeses and charcuterie go well with sparkling wines, light-bodied white wines, and fruit-forward light-bodied reds. Wines that are more aggressive need correspondingly stronger varieties.
So get out there and impress your pals with your charcuterie pairing knowledge!