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In Good Taste

How to Build the Ultimate Charcuterie Board

How to Build the Ultimate Charcuterie Board

Getting Skilled in Sips and Snacks

From deli salami to artisanal aged hams, the ultimate charcuterie board is a colorful array of cured and preserved meats. The French word charcuterie (pronounced "shahr-ku-tuh-ree") literally translates to “cooked flesh,” particularly pork. In this technique, first created by the Romans, then adopted by the French, butchers or charcutiers would make sausage, pates, and other forcemeats to preserve fresh cuts before the age of refrigeration and even to use up the less savory cuts typically reserved for those of the lower-status peasantry.

These days, charcuterie has evolved past practicality into an art form widely embraced by social media, and you can see millions of beautifully arranged boards with one simple search. The traditionally cured forcemeats now sit alongside gourmet cheeses, surrounded by tiny jars of jams and pickles, and covered with crackers, fruits, and vegetables.

So, how can you build the ultimate cheese and charcuterie board for yourself?

Creating the best charcuterie board means looking at all of the components, from the meats, cheeses, and spreads to the complimentary wine selection. You need to find the perfect balance between salty and sweet, crisp and savory, acidic and umami. Presentation is key to making the charcuterie board a party centerpiece. All of these components are explored below, and, as a bonus, we will also look at how to theme your charcuterie board to make it stand out and taste delicious.

Building Your Charcuterie Board

The ultimate charcuterie board should first be consumed by the eyes. The bountiful charcuterie boards of social media all have a few things in common: they contain elements of variety, contrast, and texture. To build a board like the pros, you need all three of these components on your charcuterie board.

Charcuterie Boards should address three main elements: Variety, Contrast and Texture

Variety ensures that your board includes a little something for every palette. This applies not only to the main meat and cheese components but to your wine choice as well. You cannot create the ultimate board without a decent selection of food and wine.

Contrast is essential for balance. Complementary flavors entice the palate. Your accompaniments play a key role in creating contrast. For example, the bright acidity of a cornichon cuts straight through the salty, fattiness of prosciutto.

Texture may not seem significant, but a lot of textural food pairings are classic for a reason. Humans love a well-composed bite of food. Too many soft and gooey cheeses, or an abundance of sliced meats with nothing to spread, could result in a boring presentation and one-note flavor.

Now, keeping in mind these three components, here are a few popular charcuterie board items.

Charcuterie Board Ideas - Sliced Meats, Cheeses and More

Sliced Meats
Sliced meats, such as salami, prosciutto, cured ham, mortadella, soppressata, and pepperoni, are a crucial part of a charcuterie board. They are the finger food portion of your board and can be wrapped around a piece of cheese or paired with an apple for contrast.

Spreadable Meats
If you are looking to upgrade your board and impress your guests, try adding some spreadable pates or rillettes, like chicken liver pate, foie gras, rillettes, creton, and 'nduja. Serving spreadable meat allows your guests to experiment with stacking and encourages people to peruse your selection of crackers and toppings.

Cheese
The idea that a charcuterie board has to include cheese is a common misconception, but who doesn’t love this classic combination? Cheese and meat go together naturally on a charcuterie board. One hard (gouda, cheddar, gruyere), one soft (brie, triple creme), and one funky (blue, goat) is a simple place to start.

Palate cleanser
Fruit and vegetables make great palate cleansers. They also give your gluten-free and vegetarian guests something to eat. Choose your favorites or go for the classics, including cornichons (mini pickles), grapes, apples, and cucumbers.

Toppings
Mustard, jelly, tapenade, pesto, hummus, bacon jam. Toppings can amp up the variety of flavor combinations and set the theme for your whole board. They can also provide a clue for which wines you should be pairing with your board (more about that a little later).

The Vehicle
Not to be underestimated, the vessel on which we consume our selections can make or break a charcuterie board. I don’t know if you’ve been down the cracker aisle lately, but there is something for everyone. Thick, cookie-like crackers sit next to crispy rosemary wafers, while wasabi rice crackers perch opposite multi-seed gluten-free crackers...Choose one to go with everything or a couple for people to mix and match.

Remember, variety, contrast, and texture each play a part in the ultimate charcuterie board. Now that you know the players, let’s take a look at how they work all together.

Charcuterie Board with In Good Taste Wines

Ultimate Charcuterie Board Ideas

If you are struggling to decide what you want on your board, try starting with a theme. Theming your charcuterie board will help you cut through the options to create a seamless presentation. You can do this by choosing the contents of your board based on a certain country, event, or holiday. You can focus on local products or only buy what is seasonal. The choice is yours.

Theming with Terroir

The concept of terroir, or the environment that affects the overall flavor and character of a wine, can apply to more than your beverage selection. Often, the wine from a country will pair best with foods from that same country. The subtle art of wine tasting is a skill that can be developed with practice. And who doesn’t want to practice such a delicious hobby?

For example, Spanish cheeses, such as Manchego and Queso Cabrales (a creamy Goat Cheese), pair well with Spanish Jamon Iberico, cured ham, or salami. For decoration, add potato chips, olives, Marcona almonds, grapes, and a sweet quince paste. A wine made with tempranillo grapes would stand up to smoky, salty meats and cheeses while complimenting the sweet quince and grapes. 

Eating with the Seasons

Building a seasonal charcuterie is another easy way to theme your board. The freshest foods always provide the most flavor. We’ve all had the experience of eating a strawberry mid-winter and wondering what happened to that bright sweetness that we remember from spring.

A spring-themed board could celebrate all things bright and fresh. Sugar snap peas, pickled fiddleheads, and strawberries would pair well with creamy Brie, chicken liver pate, and prosciutto-wrapped asparagus. To drink, focus on acidic white wines, such as a Sauvignon Blanc, to complement the flavor profile.

If you are interested in supporting local producers, try theming your board around what is available close to you. Skip right over the imported cheese sections, and explore your local terroir while helping your neighbors.

Many of us already instinctually theme our meals, pairing tomato sauce with pasta or pumpkin with warming winter spices. Choosing a holiday to inspire your board could result in an interesting composition, and we all know how well wine pairs with family gatherings. The trick is to get creative and experiment with the flavors and foods you like the best. The look of your board depends on variety, contrast, and texture, but you still have to eat everything once it’s been presented!

A Feast for the Eyes

Channel your inner decorator when bringing the pieces together on your charcuterie board. If you don’t have a designated board for cheese and meat, do not despair. The humble cutting board is easily transformed when covered with your selections.

As you build your board, start with the largest components, and work your way down to the smallest. This will ensure that you have space for the stars of the show (i.e. meats and cheeses). Next, come the crackers and condiments. Finally, use the smallest components as decoration, sprinkling a few almonds across the board or strategically placing bundles of grapes for contrasting color and flavor.

Virtual Wine Tasting Charcuterie Board Woman and Puppy on Couch

Wine Pairing with Your Ultimate Charcuterie Board

A social gathering that includes a charcuterie board would not be complete without a selection of wines. Wine pairing with a charcuterie board is not as hard as you might think. Most food and wine pairings are relatively self-explanatory once you know the basics.

When pairing wines with a charcuterie board, you probably want a wine that will balance the fatty, rich, saltiness of the meats and cheeses. Choosing a wine will depend on your palate taste. Wine tasting is a fun way to get to know your preferences. Even if you can’t meet with friends in person, virtual tastings can be a fun way to learn about wine while socializing at the same time!

If you decided to theme your board, you can use your theme to help you choose your wines. Usually, foods that were grown and made in the same region taste well together. To continue with our example from above, a Spanish Tempranillo with notes of fig, cedar, and cocoa will pair well with the smoky richness of a cured Spanish ham. The meats on your board will most likely pair better with medium- to full-bodied reds, while the cheeses will often pair better with white, rosé, or bubbles.

Here are a few tips to further match your wine to your charcuterie board.

Cheese & Wine Pairing Ideas

Dry White Wines pair well with the freshness of the cut vegetables that accompany the meats and cheeses on your board. A dry Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc would be a great place to start.

Sweet and Rich White Wines are refreshing to the palate and will cut through anything fatty. If your board has cheese, you should have at least one white to pair with it. Viognier, Chardonnay, and Rosé have the fruitiness and body that cheeses crave.

Medium and Bold Reds pair well with meat, whether it's fresh or cured. The older the meat, the more flavor you need to match it. Consider the kind of red that warms you up on a cold evening, with flavors that stand up to a lot of salt and fat. Pinot Noir, Mourvedre, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Sangiovese are a few reds that will stand up to the meat selection on your charcuterie board.

A Note About Cheese and Wine:

Many classic wine and cheese pairings date back years. Most wine enthusiasts will tell you that full-bodied wines with robust flavors and tannins pair better with strongly-flavored cheeses, while lighter wines pair better with more moderate cheeses. The adage "buy on an apple and sell on cheese" advises that if a wine tastes good on a sweet and tart apple, it will probably taste good with cheese. Experiment for yourself to see what you think!

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A wine party with a pre-selected wine flight would be the perfect place for a charcuterie board. If the event calls for a charcuterie board, you can probably assume that multiple bottles of wine will be consumed. If you decide to do a tasting party, follow the classic wine tasting rule of starting with bubbles, moving to white or rosé, and finishing with red.

When it comes to food pairing, it can be tempting to follow the rules. Your server recommends a wine for a reason (and no, that reason is not always because it is the most expensive bottle on the menu). Wine enthusiasts will be the first to tell you that just because wine has a classic pairing, that does not mean it will always pair well with that type of food. A Cabernet from California will be significantly different from a French Cabernet. So, when push comes to shove, go with your gut. If you still feel overwhelmed, look for a wine pairing chart online, or educate yourself about general wine facts.

No meal has ever been ruined by a bad wine pairing, so don’t let fear stop you from enjoying your bottle. The best part of a charcuterie board is that it is meant to be shared among friends. Experiment, taste test, and explore; your party guests will thank you. Good luck, and happy pairing!

Endless Possibilities

Their humble beginnings notwithstanding, the ultimate charcuterie has something for everyone. More important than the contents of your board are the memories created with friends and family. Whether your gathering has 20 people or two, the ultimate charcuterie board is a treat for all.

If you take away one thing from how to build the ultimate charcuterie board, let it be that the possibilities are endless. Don’t be intimidated; be curious and fearless. Pair that weird stinky cheese with your local supermarket pate, and see what happens. Go unorthodox, and try drinking white, then red, then bubbles, and pair each with a different part of your charcuterie board. You never know when you will find the perfect bite.

How to Build the Ultimate Charcuterie Board - Tips, Tricks and Recommended Pairings for Wine Tastings

Big Reds

Our Favorites

Big. Bold. Unapologetic. The rich, unmistakable flavors of the Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, and Bordeaux Rouge in our Big Reds collection are perfect for the unwavering palate that demands something more.

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Vine Voyage Top 3

Our Favorites

The Vine Voyage bundle will remind you why France and Italy are two of the most well-known, wine-producing countries in the world. Take your senses to the European countryside with Montepulciano, Rosé of Sangiovese, and Nerello Cappuccio.

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Light Reds

Our Favorites

Like the infectious laugh of a best friend, these wines will warm your soul and lighten your mood. Our Light Reds bundle with a Grenache, Coteaux Borguignons AOC, and Pinot Noir are sure to be your new wine besties!

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International Whites

Our Favorites

Experience a world-class wine tour for your tastebuds from the comfort of home. This bundle features incredible selections from France and Italy that will have you ready to grab your passport and hop a plane.

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California Wine Mixer Top 3

Our Favorites

Californian wine is a state of mind. The Cabernet Sauvignon, Rosé, and Red Wine from our California Wine Mixer bundle can transport your state of mind (and palate) all the way to The Golden State.

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Rosé of Sangiovese

Andiamo

Sangiovese can be found in both the Chianti and Montalcino regions of Tuscany (it all sounds so romantic, right?) and is known for producing classic medium-bodied wines. Rosé wine is actually made from red grapes, and this is where the Rosé of Sangiovese comes to play. Crisp, fruit-forward, and easy-to-drink, it's everything you want in your bottle of Rosé and more.

$19.99

Sauvignon Blanc

La Pluma

We couldn't have rosé and Pinot Grigio at the La Pluma party without inviting its ring leader, Sauvignon Blanc. If Pinot Grigio is the dry, acidic friend of the group and rosé is the always highly affable one, Sauvignon Blanc exists between the two to create true Zen. An interesting and addictive blend of grapefruits and herbs set this white wine apart and makes it incredibly difficult to resist, especially when the temperature is high and your desire for refreshment is higher. La Pluma Sauvignon Blanc is the perfect poolside or beach companion; just be sure to bring a few bottles because your friends will definitely want to partake, and we don't blame them!

Barbera

Wild Child

The perfect pizza wine. Barbera is a simple wine that’s not only easy for winemakers to make, but easier to drink. It’s low in alcohol and an Italian red wine we implore you try chilled because it’s truly *chef’s kiss*. Classic Barberas are fruity, medium bodied and offer the perfect hint of tartness. It’s also the best of both worlds in terms of light and heavy red wines. Let’s say you’re having a friend over who always prefers a cab, but you’re more of a Pinot Noir kinda gal. Order a pizza and open the Barbera for a perfect middle ground kind of evening. After all, the combo of good red wine and pizza is the great equalizer.

Montepulciano

Andiamo

Big, bold, and full of flavor—exactly what you’d expect an Italian wine to be! This classic Italian grape produces some of Italy’s most straightforward red wines and is often used as a blending grape. Not here, though. We let Montepulciano do the heavy lifting as a heavy red wine and shine on its own. If you enjoy the smell of leather bound books, nibbling on dried fruit, and complementary notes of bitter, dark chocolate and sweet plums, you will love this Italian wine. No need to pair it with any certain dish—Montepulciano tastes great with all the Italian classics.

$20.99

Cabernet Sauvignon

Unprecedented

If Pinot Noir is the light and juicy queen of reds, Cabernet Sauvignon is her bolder, heavier, meatier sister. Often referred to as just “cab,” it’s the wine of France’s Bordeaux and California’s Napa Valley. There’s nothing subtle about Cabernet Sauvignon—high in alcohol, full-bodied and robust, you can usually find this red served with a ribeye, New York Strip, or filet mignon (re: carnivores love cab). Classic cabs usually offer tasting notes of chocolate, coffee, and darker fruits like prunes and plums. The Unprecedented Cabernet Sauvignon is as classic as they come, and we highly recommend letting the bottle sit and mellow until your next red meat and potatoes dinner!

Rosé

La Pluma

While it's the unofficial official wine of summer and warm weather situations, La Pluma's Rosé is one you can drink year-round, no matter the occasion. All rosé wine is derived from red grapes, and the result exceeds expectations in terms of highly-sippable, easy-drinking wine. This La Pluma Rosé is as light as its feathery namesake and is best served extremely chilled for an extremely chill afternoon of nothing but vibes. And maybe a few snacks.

Pinot Grigio

La Pluma

If you’re looking for more zest in your life, a bottle of Pinot Grigio can provide that. We included a classic Pinot Grigio in the La Pluma collection because we’re all about light and easy here, which is exactly what this grape from Italy is. It has that dry sense of humor that seems so effortless with a punchy acidity to keep you on your toes, all while offering notes of lemon, limes, green apples, and honeysuckle. Long story short; when it’s been a heavy day and your soul is seeking light things only, you’ll be happy to have this bottle on hand.

$19.99

Pinot Noir

Unprecedented

We couldn’t create the In Good Taste Unprecedented collection without the Golden Retriever of wines: Pinot Noir. Pinot is likable, it’s easy, and its natural state of being is simply charming. It’s an incredibly easy red wine to love, which is why so many people do. The grape itself is from the Burgundy region of France, but has made its way to California, Oregon, Australia, Italy, Argentina, and Germany since. Our Pinot Noir has no surprise twists—it’s a classic light red with just the right amount of sweetness to keep you coming back for another glass (or two).

$25.99

Coteaux Bourguignons

Passport

The Burgundy region of France is home to their best Pinot Noirs, but we took the grapes into our own hands to create something extra special with our Coteaux Bourguignons. It’s a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay, which results in a French red that’s light in body but full in flavor. The ripest blueberries and freshest herbs can be easily detected in this French burgundy blend. May we suggest pairing it with some creamy brie and freshly baked bread? It’s a oui-ning combo.

$25.99

Nerello Cappuccio

Wild Child

This is not your average Italian red. Nerello Cappuccio is a dark-skinned grape variety from Sicily, the Mount Etna region to be exact (yes, the volcano). Although its color is vibrant, you might be surprised to know that it’s a much softer red than it looks to be. Our Nerello Cappuccio is cherry-forward, with other tasting notes of vanilla, light coffee (like your favorite breakfast blend), and minerals. The delicate tannins in this Sicilian wine will surprise and delight you and tastes exceptionally good paired with margherita pizza or arancini balls (drool).

Chardonnay

Unprecedented

Ah, Chardonnay. This full-bodied and diverse wine is polarizing in its very nature: from an oak barrel-aged buttery, oaky, rich white wine, to a stainless steel-aged, mineral-driven neutral wine. Our classic Unprecedented California Chardonnay is the former, and will surely become a new favorite. Its buttery vanilla nature pairs extremely well with like-minded buttery, creamy foods such as brie cheese, lobster, crab cakes, crème brûlée, squash, corn, and mushrooms.

Verdicchio

Andiamo

A little sweet. A little tart. A little salty? You truly get it all with this white Italian wine. If you're into that biting acidity, Verdicchio will probably be high on your list of most-loved wines from our Andiamo collection. Citrus fruits like mandarin, lemon, and grapefruit are at the forefront, but what really sets this Italian wine apart is its distinct notes of almond. While our Verdicchio can start out tasting a bit tart, the more you sip, the smoother it becomes. In fact, we suggest approaching it as an aperitif (Italian for an alcoholic drink sipped before a meal to stimulate the appetite) to experience its full effect.

$23.99

Red Wine

Unprecedented

We’d love to introduce you to our old friend: Unprecedented Red Wine. She’s a 2019 blend that has been with us through it all and grown to be one of our more popular wines. She’s a mix of all the best Italian grapes: Barbera, Sangiovese, and Tempranillo with a splash of Mourvèdre and a few others. They’re all hanging out, having one big, juicy, delicious party! Tasting notes include a touch of spice, a hint of leather, and some of the best juicy fruits, including blackberries. She truly gets along with just about everybody!

Côtes du Rhône White

Passport

This was one of our first French wines to join the Passport collection and one sip will explain why. Some background on the Rhône Valley in France: While this region is known for its dark, juicy reds, a very small amount of special white wines are made in the Rhône Valley. Our Côtes du Rhône is packed with French-perfected, floral flavor and Old-World charm. Its natural tang paired with the weighty Marsanne grape and aromatic Roussanne grape results in a crisp, savory sip that’ll transport you to a sunbathing chair by the Rhône itself.

$23.99

Bordeaux Rouge

Passport

When you picture medieval folk sitting around a feast with goblets of wine, chances are they were drinking Bordeaux. This wine has been made in France since forever and is arguably the most classic French wine out there. Bordeaux is known for its full body, smoky notes, and rich, oaky taste. If you love cabs, chances are you will adore Bordeaux. For our Passport wines, we had to include this classic French red for you to sip and enjoy to your heart’s content. Best savored over a rich meal like lamb ragu, ratatouille, or BBQ.

$21.99

Ventoux Rosé

Passport

You probably know that the Tour de France is held on Ventoux Mountain in France, but did you know that the same area is known for its high-altitude rosé? This is the kind of quintessential French rosé that you don’t need to spin your wheels over—it’s simply delicious, crisp, and perfect for warm weather. Despite its delicate, pale pink color, each sip is lush with flavor, from tropical passionfruit and zesty citrus to refreshing melon. This has the potential to be your new summer go-to, so we’d suggest stocking up.

$21.99

Tempranillo

Wild Child

Say “¡Hola!” to Spain’s main grape: Tempranillo. This red grape put Rioja wine on the map and is un vino tinto classico. It’s best compared to a classic cab, but with a bit more unique magic that’s hard to put your finger on, which is why it’s a part of our Wild Child line. This medium- to full-bodied wine with its relatively higher tannins usually offers complex notes of cherry, fig, cedar, tobacco, and dill. This is the type of red wine you want to buy and pour for a Latin-infused meal; think carne asada, tacos al carbon, or just perfectly cooked steak fajita meat.

Grenache

La Pluma

We knew the only red in the La Pluma collection had to be exceptionally good and exceptionally light. That’s why including a Grenache was a no-brainer. If smooth, fruit-forward, light-bodied reds appeal to your tastebuds, this could be your new favorite. The grape itself is tricky; depending on the climate of where its grown, Grenache wines could be light, dense, or somewhere in the middle. La Pluma’s version has all the airiness and flavor notes we wanted in our Grenache, which is how we know you’ll love it. Get the most of this red by pairing it with roasted meats, spice-heavy vegetables, and Mexican-inspired dishes with lots of cumin.

$27.99

Barbera

Andiamo

We really try not to play favorites at In Good Taste, but there is just something about an Italian Barbera that hits different in the best way. Barberas are the perfect wine for pizza night; they're low in alcohol, and medium-bodied but taste super light, and their berry and plum flavors pair incredibly well with savory tomato sauce and cheese! Another fun thing about Barberas? They actually taste great when chilled, which is not something we're in the habit of suggesting for our red wines. Our Italian Barbera lies somewhere between the body of a cab and a pinot and is the ideal choice for a "ladies who lunch" kind of afternoon.

$21.99

Dolcetto

Andiamo

The Dolcetto grape is an easy, laid-back, relaxed Italian wine experience. Its literal translation may throw you, though—Dolcetto means “little sweet one” in Italian, but this wine is anything but. Packed with black fruit flavors like plum, blackberries, and black raspberries, this wine has the tasty necessities that make it a true Italian drinking wine. With moderate tannins and relatively low acidity, our Dolcetto is the perfect choice for just about any occasion. This lighter red Italian wine tastes even better when paired with poultry dishes like duck or chicken and really shines with a lighter pasta.

Vermentino

Wild Child

We couldn't not have a weird white in the mix, right?! The Vermentino grape is native along the coast of Italy on the island of Sardinia (yeah, like the fish). Because of its origin, this grape offers a salty, crisp flavor that's incredibly easy to drink and enjoy. We say it's "weird" only because it's not widely known by name, but chances are you've probably had it before if you've ever ordered white wine in an Italian restaurant. If you love peaches and lemons and get a kick out of anything that reminds you of the sea, our Vermentino is the perfect Italian white to experience on a sunny day outside.

$23.99

Viognier

Unprecedented

For the Chardonnay lovers who are looking to dig a bit deeper in the world of bold whites, a Viognier (pronounced vee-own-yay) could be your next big adventure. Viogniers tend to have more range; while they can be creamy with hints of vanilla like their Chardonnay counterpart, they also offer lighter, fruitier flavors like tangerine, mango, and honeysuckle. It’s still a more full-bodied white wine, but unlike Chardonnay, it’s softer on acidity and more perfumed. Spend an afternoon with a glass of Viognier amongst the flowers and it’ll all make sense.

$24.99

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