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Ultimate Winter Wine Pairings – Celebrate in Style

Planning is key to a successful wine and cheese party

Winter is the perfect time to hold a wine and cheese party. While it's not exactly rocket science, there is more to planning it than just uncorking a few bottles and unwrapping a few wheels of cheese.

You'll want to have a variety of cheeses for your guests. To ensure that you cover all the bases, break down your cheeses into four categories: fresh cheeses (like goat cheese), bloomy and soft cheeses (like Brie), hard cheeses (like Beaufort) and blue cheeses (like our Bleu d'Auvergne). Make sure you serve your cheese at room temperature; take it out of the refrigerator a half hour before serving.

You'll also want to offer a variety of wines. Unlike cheese, white wines should be chilled and served at approximately 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Red wines should be opened prior to serving (to let them "breathe").

Start with lighter cheeses and wines, then move to heavier varieties. That way, the palate won't be overwhelmed. In between wine tastings, have guests cleanse the palate by drinking water. Serve neutral-flavored bread and crackers, along with fresh fruit, which also can cleanse the palate.

Now that you've got the basics down, let's take a look at some cheeses that are popular during the winter months (not to mention all year round!) and wines recommended to complement them:

Goat cheese - Our grass-fed Chèvre is slightly salty, a bit tangy and extremely fresh tasting, with a rich texture. Go with a Sauvignon blanc.

Brie - Brie starts with a clean, fresh milky note, ending with a hazelnut and light mushroom aftertaste. Pair with a Chardonnay.

Blue cheese - Ile de France's Saint Agur is decadently creamy blue cheese. Technically a double-cream cheese, it appeals to many palates Choose a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Camembert - Camembert is an earthy, full-flavored and creamy fromage featuring mushroom and nutty overtones. Côtes du Rhône wine is a good match.