Chicago in autumn = prime time for hosting a wine and cheese party. (Duh.)
Curate your fall spread with confidence by using our handy pairings cheat sheet:
With Champagne: Mild, semisoft Italian Taleggio is an easy crowd-pleaser that’s more special than Brie. Balance its creaminess with dry, effervescent bubblies. TRY: Taleggio-style Ameribella by Jacobs & Brichford, Indiana, $20 per pound at Publican Quality Meats, 825 W. Fulton Market
With Merlot: Gouda--or “How-da,” as the Dutch say--is a hard cow's-milk cheese. The sharper, aged varieties are more foolproof to pair than the omnipresent smoked ones. An earthy Merlot lets this cheese’s pockets of briny white salt shine. TRY: L’Amuse Signature Smoked Gouda by Essex Cheese Company, Holland, $29 per pound, at Pastoral, 53 E. Lake St.
With Port: English Stilton is veined with mold and ripe as an old sock, but its lasting tang will haunt you in a good way. Pair it with raisiny port for a sweet contrast to that funky taste. TRY: Bayley Hazen Blue by Jasper Hills Cellars, Vermont, $25 per pound at Provenance, 2528 N. California Ave.
With Sauvignon Blanc: Chèvre has a soft acidity and whipped texture. The creamy goat's-milk tartness complements bright, acidic wines like Sauvignon Blanc. TRY: Ms. Natural Chèvre by Cypress Grove Creamery, California, $7 for 4 oz. at Whole Foods, 30 W. Huron St.