How a Sommelier Deals With the Very Toughest Wine Pairing Challenges
Lessons from Jeff Gulotta of Mopho in New Orleans.
“So spicy khao soi with coconut milk, pork belly, slow poached egg and wood-ear mushrooms, uh yeah that’ll pair well with…beer,” says, Jeff Gulotta, the wine guy and co-owner of Mopho in New Orleans.
“When Mike told me that the menu would consist of dishes we ran as weekend specials at Mopho, I was pretty nervous and decided to lash out accordingly,” says Gulotta. “The list came together haphazardly and was scrapped and restarted several times before its current incarnation.”
Spanning from red fruit-packed Willamette Valley Pinot Noir to bright, acidic German Riesling, the short but well-curated wine list covers all the bases of Gulotta’s far-flung cooking, which skips from Bibb lettuce chaat drizzled with cucumber ranch dressing to duck confit with a black-roux hoisin.
Here’s how he did it—without resorting to beer.
“Mike is a student of layering flavors over unique textures, like roasted fairytale pumpkin with pancetta, apple and roti,” says Gulotta. So he took a page from his brother and focused on the mouthfeel of the dish—creamy pumpkin with fatty pancetta, slight tartness with the apple and more butteriness from the roti—and filled in the gap with Gramona Imperial Cava. “It has acidity to clean that richness from your palate,” he says.
Fall Back on Old Standbys
When fried oysters over a bourbon barrel-aged soy aioli appeared on the menu, Gulotta went back to the drawing board. “I always recommend the Les Crustaces by Dopff & Irion from Alsace,” he says. “It has an almost electric acidity along with bright white fruit that barely touches sweetness.”
Pair Weird with Weird
“It's like Frankenstein’s monster,” Gulotta says of the red bean calamarata, a pasta made with red bean flour and served with an Andouille sausage Bolognese and bitter rapini. “We couldn’t even find a beer for that one.” So, he called an audible with Conreria d'Scala Dei's Black Slate. It’s made with a little Pedro Ximénez to lend it a sherry-like quality that gives balance and a silky finish to the dish.