Anthony Gismondi on Wine
Thursday, September 28 2023

How Now Brown Cow?

By: Allison Spurrell
Parmigiano Reggiano Solo di Bruna

This month, we look at a unique version of Parmigiano Reggiano, Solo di Bruna; it has been defined as one of the best protagonists of taste.

Richer from a nutritional point of view, with a sweet and delicate taste, Parmigiano Reggiano PDO by Bruna has been the subject of numerous university studies. Here are my thoughts.

Cheese: Parmigiano Reggiano Solo di Bruna

Origin:  Emilia-Romagna, Italy

Milk Type: 100% Bruna Alpina or Bruan Italiana

Style:  Hard-aged cheese.

Solo di Bruna is made the same way a regular Reggiano wheel is made. The milk is collected twice daily; the morning milk is used whole, while the evening milk is skimmed before use. The milk is always used within twenty-four hours of milking. The wheels are brined and then aged on racks for at least twelve months.

What sets the Solo di Bruna apart from other delicious wheels of Reggiano is that all of the milk comes exclusively from a breed of brown cows called Bruna Alpina (Alpine Brown), sometimes also called Bruna Italiana. In Italy, like in many other countries, many of the traditional breeds have been supplanted by Holstein-Friesians, who are prolific milkers.

The Bruna Alpina were first imported into Italy in the 1700s from Switzerland and used especially in the alpine areas, but even in other areas of the country because of the high quality and high protein of their milk. In the 1950s, most large makers turned to Holstein-Friesians as they could produce up to 25% more milk annually.

Today, some smaller makers are turning back to the traditional breeds, looking for that special quality that truly excellent milk can give.

The wheels of Solo di Bruna are made to the same strict standards as other wheels of Reggiano and have their own PDO (protected designation of origin). They are not only stamped on the rounded barrel-shaped sides as all other wheels are, but they also have a unique stamp on the bottom and top of the wheels, a cow’s head inside a small circle.

You can see all the markings in the picture.

The numbers inside the oval are the code for the farm where the cheese is made, so the product is traceable back to its source, and the writing to the right of that is the date, in this case, LUG 2020, July 2020, just over 36 months.

Tasting Notes: We carry the Solo di Bruna alongside our other varieties of Parmigiano Reggiano because of an impromptu tasting I had one morning with the staff. There were thirteen of us, and we tasted eight pieces of Reggiano. Some were more and less aged; one was designated a “mountain” wheel, and I set them out, all cut up and only marked with a number.

Everyone tried them, and then I asked people to write down their favourite and second favourite. Eleven of us marked the Solo di Bruna as our favourite! That told me enough, to be honest, as getting a consensus with cheese people is definitely an anomaly.

The wheels are aged at least twenty-four months, so they have great texture with lots of crystals, but there is still an amazing amount of rich, creamy mouthfeel. I find the slightly fruity, toasty flavours very pronounced, and there is a lovely little end note of sweetness, almost like toffee.

Pairing: Like all Reggianos, it has a vast list of pairing options. You can use it all on your favourite simple pasta, something with just a lovely bit of brown butter, and it would be awesome, but I would suggest trying it as a table cheese. It should be natural with a great bottle of almost any wine you can think of and could be paired very successfully with a selection of fall fruit; I’m thinking of local pears or apples.

GOW Suggested Wine Pairings : 

Written By: Allison Spurrell
Allison Spurrell
Allison Spurrell

Allison Spurrell stocks the larders of the city’s finest restaurants and your fridge alike, through les amis du FROMAGE, cheese shops in the Kitslano and Strathcona neighbourhoods in Vancouver which she runs with Joe Chaput. Their shelves are filled with 400 cheeses, including local, raw milk French, Italian and other specialties. They also sell foie gras, pâtés, crackers, biscuits, varietal olive oils, vinegars and other specialty food items and their kitchen in Strathcona prepares popular frozen taken away meals. Les amis du FROMAGE has received Vancouver Magazine's Restaurant Award as a top food supplier to Vancouver’s best restaurants and hotels. Allison is a proud member of Confrerie les Chevalier du Taste Fromage de France. To buy cheese visit: les amis du FROMAGE in Kitslano - 1752 West 2nd Ave | Tel (604) 732-4218 or Strathcona - 843 East Hastings St | Tel 604-253-4218 | www.buycheese.com.