13 October 2010

not really pairing anything with: bufala mozzarella

The trumpeting self-publishing hubbub of the Anglophone expat community here in Paris sometimes allows us to forget there are also corresponding expat groups from other, more interesting cultures inhabiting the same city. So I'm lucky to know my friend L, an Italian whose copious free time and multinational background allow him to move freely among both Italian and American circles. He travels constantly, and whenever sur la route du retour from Campania he makes sure to back a suitcase full of fresh bufala mozzarella.

Which in Paris provides a nice occasion to throw a party. If you've ever seen the line outside of Cisternino when the burrata arrives on Thursdays, you'll understand what I mean.

Our friends A and P. No prizes for guessing which one is Italian. 
I arrived late the other night, but just in time to snag a few slices of dreamy white mozzarella. Like many afficionados, L insists that fresh bufala mozzarella never be refrigerated, and instead simply left at room temperature in its amniotic sac of whey until eaten. So what you get is lukewarm suitcase cheese. It's terrific, meaty and ripe in a way that the legally imported stuff rarely approaches.

As happens all too frequently, I was asked what we ought to pair with fresh mozzarella. Having spent time as a sommelier at a restaurant themed around mozzarella, I ought to have an easy answer by now. I don't.

Fresh mozzarella is honestly kind of resistant to pairing. Don't trust all the superficial moron blogs that tell you to pair it with Chianti. (Both Italian! Whoa! But not from the same region! At all!) With richer cheeses I tend to go for bright, high-acid reds - but bufala mozzarella despite its lushness has a paradoxically light, almost aerial flavor. A dry Riesling, usually a good go-to pairing for all sorts of things, is just kind of distracting with mozzarella, adding nothing. Off the top of my head I think the only even remotely intellectual pairing I can think of is Fiano di Avellino, a Campanian appellation covering whites made from Fiano, a highly aromatic, superbly named grape that combines herbal and pine-nutty tones to create, at times, a kind of sweet-pesto effect. (If you ever find any bottles of Fiano by Villa Diamante, buy them all and send one to me. It's the best there is.)

Since I had no bottles of Fiano at hand - never even seen one here in Paris - I brought the 2006 Benanti Etna Rosso I'd picked up the other day at A La Ville d'Udine. It neither added nor subtracted to the main event of the mozzarella, but somehow no one minded.*

*Pairing, for me, is really a lot more like basic color matching than any sort of refined science. You don't drink Côte-Rôtie with oysters and you don't get dressed in the dark. It's more about avoiding disasters than creating miracles. In other words, it's just common sense.  

Related Links: 

Dicovering Great Etna Rosso at A La Ville d'Udine


  1. Lonardo's Grecomusc works great with Burrata. But that wine is difficult to find. Second the Villa Diamante recco. Stefano di Marzo's unusual Greco di Tufo works great as well.
    BTW, fabulous blog! Keep it up!

  2. thanks! i'll keep an eye out for the Grecomusc. for both Grecos you mention actually. i've still yet to be really blown away by any greco i've tasted, although something tells me this might be due to having done most of my professional wine tasting on the west coast of america. (nyc takes everything.)

    i used to stock benito ferrara's at my old restaurant. but mostly for the sake of having the grape represented, rather than for any special merit in the wine itself, which was tasty but always a vintage behind and at times slightly oxidized.