Although we no longer believe the white truffle is the daugther of lightning, and we have toned down their aphrodisiac qualities, people still travel from near and far just to savor a little piece of this gastronomical object of desire.
So why write about it when wine is our game? Well, the white truffle, the Tuber Magnatum Picto, or, in Piemontese “trifola d’Alba”, a hypogean fungus, lives underground in Alba, Italy. Also known as the “capital” of Piemonte, the home of Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera, Dolcetto, and more. And as the truffle go well with food, and food go well with wine, well, there you are – truffle hunting and wine belongs together…!
If you have not been around a fresh white truffle before, you will know it when you are. Aromas of mould, earth, roots, trees, and sometimes even aged cheese. Note: you can also find black truffles in Piemonte – and they are OK – but the most costly black truffles are found in the Périgord region in France).
And, the hunting itself is fun too. I know some people refer to it as harvesting truffles, but we prefer the hunting method. The white truffle lives entirely underground, among the roots of trees (oak being the best bet), and they are hunted by the “trifulau” (truffle hunter) and their dog. And, you? Well, you tag along, and sometimes run to the “rescue” when the dog starts digging for the truffle. You do that, so that the dog does not ruin the truffle with its paws, or eat it. Yes, some dogs eat them…
My wife, Line, our wonderful tartufo hunter/guide and his two dogs
October and November is the height of the white truffle season, and this is when you are most likely to get lucky whilst hunting. If a truffle hunting trip, accompanied by some winery visits, is not enough for you, Alba, Italy’s truffle capital, is also home to the Associazione Nazionale ‘Città del Tartufo’, known to the rest of us as the White Truffle Festival. From October 8th to November 13th , you can join thousands of people in Alba, and the nearby towns, to take part in all what the Festival has to offer: the White Truffle World Auction, the Truffle-of-the-Year prize, an associated wine festival, the Literature Festival, the Alba Art Show, a hot Air Balloon Fair, and various traditional races, where the Donkey Race (in its 51st year, is one for the ages.
Really a light-hearted celebration of the rivalry between the different Alba districts, much the same they have with their wines (!)
So, whatever floats your boat, Alba is the place to go this fall for truffle hunting. And, remember, the aromas and taste leaves the truffle quickly (in around 7-10 days), so enjoy it with food while you can, and do not put it on your mantelpiece, or next to your Marco Pole sheep trophy. It will stink up your house too….