Tip 1:Source your cheeses from a cheesemonger with a sound knowledge of cheese and good selection of quality cheeses. This is your best opportunity to buy cheeses at their best. Ask for their advice on what is ripe and ideas if you would like to try something new. If buying cheese from a supermarket is your only option then to increase the likelihood of sourcing soft cheeses such as brie, camembert or blue cheese at their most ripe, buy the cheese as close to its “best before” date as possible. This is not relevant for hard cheeses.
Tip 2: While cheese is ideally stored between 9 and 12°C, in a damp place such as a cellar or cool cupboard with a good airflow, this is impossible for most of us so the vegetable crisper section of your refrigerator is the next best option. Cheeses are best wrapped in a calico cloth or greaseproof paper to avoid the cheeses drying out, particularly the softer, high-moisture cheeses.
Tip 3: Remove cheeses from the refrigerator at least one hour before they are to be served to allow them to come to room temperature. For whole wheels and large wedges, cut only what you expect to use and return the remainder to the refrigerator. Arrange them on the serving plate with accompaniments alongside but not touching the cheese. For firm cheeses served in wedges, cut a couple of ‘starting slices’ to prompt guests as to the best way to cut the cheese. It’s best to use a larger plate that gives guests plenty of room to manoeuvre the cutting of the cheese. Cover loosely with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap until serving time.
Tip 4: Whilst cheese knives are very handy to cut and extract a piece of cheese with the prongs on the end of the knife, a sharp knife will also suffice. A knife with holes helps to stop soft cheese from sticking. For hard cheese, try a cheese planer - shaped like a small cake slice with a blade. A butter or pate knife can be used for softer cheeses. Marinated cheeses in oil can be served with a small fork or spoon. Remember to provide a separate cheese knife or utensil for each cheese, and encourage guests not to mix the knives to avoid mixing cheese flavours.
Tip 5: Crusty bread is the best all-rounder with cheese, and apart from serving oatmeal or wheatmeal biscuits with a mature cheddar, bread is always preferable to biscuits. A sourdough loaf with a dense crumb and chewy crust is most suitable (it's also nice grilled or toasted). Olive bread works very well with goat's cheese, and a walnut loaf works with blue cheeses. Breads with sultanas in them are excellent with some washed-rind, 'aromatic' cheeses.
Tip 6: When selecting wines to serve with the cheese platter one suggestion to follow is the lighter the cheese, the lighter the wine. A creamy blue would marry well with a chilled viognier, while a ripe brie would be delicious with a sparkling viognier. Try a firmer cheese such as cheddar or gruyere with a medium bodied red such as sangiovese or nebbiolo.
Tip 7: For a simple cheese platter try a ripe brie, creamy blue and a vintage cheddar. For something more adventurous source an oozing camembert, a gruyere, bitey blue and a washed rind cheese. Or for something simple but decadent buy one wedge of a very special cheese such as an aged goats cheese, drizzled with lavender honey and prunes soaked in port. Add accompaniments such as fruit, nuts and fruit pastes.