There’s nothing quite like the distinct aroma of a Piedmont white truffle. Grated over fresh gnocchi or the traditional Tajarin al burro pasta, its rich flavour transforms even the simplest dish. Italy is the world’s largest producer of this world-renowned delicacy, and with the Alba White Truffle Fair around the corner, we wanted to outline all you need to know about the upcoming Piedmont Truffle season.
White vs Black Truffles
Both white and black truffles grow under the ground among the roots of trees, and while they grow and can be found in a similar way, there are a few key aspects that set them apart. White truffles are more intense in flavour, and have a shorter hunting season than black truffles. White truffles also remain fresh for only a few days after picking, while black truffles can last up to two weeks. For this reason, white truffles are known as the ‘diamond of the kitchen’, and they are incredibly sought after in the culinary scene. Black truffles are used during the cooking process for seasoning, while white truffles are often served raw as an accent to cooked dishes so that their complex taste can be appreciated. At a restaurant in Piedmont, it’s not uncommon to have a waiter arrive at your table with a fresh white truffle, a grater and a scale to weigh the desired amount of this tasty topping.
The Truffle Hunting Experience
A day out in the forest of Piedmont is a great way to get a true sense of this long standing tradition. Join an experienced trifulau and their trusty dog, and travel to one of the regions best known for this culinary treasure. The truffle hunter will explain techniques for hunting, point out the best places to look, and recount the history of this age-old activity. A pair of sturdy shoes is recommended, since things can get muddy!
One thing that people often know about truffle hunting is that pigs were an integral part of the process, but when you arrive on your Alba truffle hunting tour you’ll notice an absence of our curly tailed friends. This is because, while pigs are excellent hunters, their appetite for truffles meant that these delicacies were eaten before the truffle hunters could get to them. Now dogs are used instead, offering a much more successful yield!
Best Time of Year
If you’re wondering the best time to visit, the Piedmont truffle season runs from the end of October through to December when the weather is cooling down. Different varieties are available throughout the year, but this is the ideal time for hunting the lauded white truffle.
A Guide to the Regions
Home to Italy’s largest concentration of Michelin star restaurants, the Langhe region is a gastronomic treasure trove. Its star status is due to the oak forests that surround the region, since they are some of the best places to find white truffles in all of Italy. The type of tree that the truffle grows under has an impact on its taste and oak trees are known to bring out an intense flavour, which is why this area is such a hotbed for delicious tubers. Langhe is also a popular choice for its collection of prize-winning wineries, with wines such a Barolo and Barbaresco all within an easy proximity from one another.
The rolling hills of Alba are known to be the centre of the exquisite white truffle region and the ideal base for the Piedmont Truffle season. The annual Alba White Truffle Fair, which runs from the 10th October to the 8th December 2020, is celebrating its 90th year this year and will see connoisseurs travelling from all around the world to partake in this culinary tradition. The fair takes place in the town’s historic centre, and vendors from across the country bring their truffles for assessment and for sale. Aside from its foodie appeal, this UNESCO World Heritage site is well worth a visit for its medieval towers and breathtaking architecture, as well as its proximity to some of Italy’s most famous wine regions. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to find out more about the Alba truffle hunting tour that would best suit your specific needs.
Not only is this time of year prime for truffling, but it’s also the season of the famous Barolo wine. Known to be one of the most complex flavour palettes of red wine in the world, this aromatic wine is notoriously difficult to produce, but when it’s done right, the result is exceptional. The story of Barolo wine is a fascinating one, and we highly recommend a Barolo wine tour to delve into the history of this world-class wine.
The region of Barbaresco is just east of Alba, and is known for wines that are light in colour and have a full bodied aroma. The majority of the wine production happens in the small villages around the region, making the experience of wine tasting here all the more special. Despite its close proximity to the Barolo region, Barbaresco wines are distinctly different to their neighbours. The Barbaresco’s softer tannins mean that it has a shortened maturation time, and can be enjoyed as a young wine.
From the red tiled roofs of La Morra, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the Piedmont region. Slightly bigger than Barolo, this hillside village is also slightly quieter, and a firm favourite for wine connoisseurs and foodies alike. La Morra is best for a relaxed day spent wine tasting, snacking and wandering through the ancient streets.
Where to Eat
Restaurant Piazza Duomo
At Piazza Duomo, the experience of each individual guest is incredibly important and, for that reason, no two dining experiences are the same. Boasting three Michelin stars, this little piece of culinary heaven nestled in the foothills of Alba is a not-to-be-missed event on any Piedmont itinerary. Enjoy the genius of Chef Enrico’s extraordinary creations, a classic and contemporary setting and a wine-list to write home about.
To dine at Guido is to experience Piedmontese cuisine at its best. Situated in a 19th century Villa Fontanafredda, this classic Michelin starred restaurant is the place to sample the mastery of Chef Ugo Alciati as he balances the region’s finest flavours while you soak up the ancient charm of this iconic location.
Where to Stay
Castello Di Guarene
Indulge in the opulence of a palace overlooking Alba and treat yourself to a stay at the magnificent Castello Di Guarene. This boutique hotel is the ideal base from which to explore the scrumptious wineries and restaurants, and is only a short distance from some of Alba’s best truffle hunting spots. What’s more, you can relax and unwind after a long day of sightseeing at the onsite spa, complete with Finnish sauna, steam bath and salt cave.
Relais San Maurizio
If dining under ancient frescoes and waking up to a view of the verdant countryside is your idea of luxury, we’ve got just the spot for you. Relais San Maurizio is a seventeenth century monastery complete with all the contemporary comforts and amenities you could hope for. While Relais San Maurizio is a little bit outside Langhe, it is well worth the drive. It’s closer to Monferrato, another great wine region, so we recommend taking the scenic route on your way to your truffle hunting experience.
Spending time in Italy during the Piedmont truffle season is a fail proof way to indulge in the very best of the Italian culinary scene. Get in touch with us to start planning your exclusive, gastronomic getaway in Piedmont today.