Wine and Cheese Party?

Having a wine and cheese party is a common and much appreciated function. But here is a little known fact: Wine experts do not allow cheese during a wine tasting, and cheese experts do not allow wine during a cheese tasting. Why? Each dulls the other: obscures the essence of the differences in taste between one item being evaluated, and the next. Unhappy to report, but true.

The best solid food to separate wines from each other during a serious tasting - to "cleanse the palate" - is bread, and a plain one at that. A simple French baguette - sliced and then quartered - is perfect for this.

The best solid food to separate cheeses from each other during a serious tasting - to "cleanse the palate" - is bread, and a plain one at that. Or a plain cracker, like a water wafer.

So - what does this mean as regards your social group, which enjoys "wine and cheese"?

It means nothing. If you are not writing a column on "best wines" for the local paper, or the "best cheeses" for your local food network, you can ignore the fact that each dulls the other. It is not your purpose. Just have fun, socialize, "judge" the wines to your own taste (which is the only thing that really matters, in the final analysis) and have a good time.

Who are these "experts", anyway? Well, I am one. And I have just told you what to do. Ignore us.

Note: On one occasion of a wine and cheese tasting for a dozen people, the following were also placed on the bar: a baguette, sliced and quartered, a package of water wafers, an equal number of Triscuit crackers, and an equal number of Ritz crackers. (There was also a tray of grapes.) The water wafers disappeared first, then the baguette, then the Triscuit. The Ritz may have as much salt as the Triscuit, but it is thought to have more. As soon as the water wafers disappeared first, we resupplied them, and added another baguette.

Don't put out Ritz crackers, ever. Nor Wheat Thins (which I otherwise love, alone), since their strong flavor will mask subtleties in cheese and wine.