Sip Nebbiolo and Hunt White Truffles in Piedmont, Italy
Piedmont boasts an array of attractions, from fog-draped scenery to medieval castles. But come autumn, two specific culinary delights lure visitors: Nebbiolo, the region’s iconic red grape, and the rare tartufo bianco d’Alba, or Alba white truffle, also known as white gold, which only grows wild. Visit during harvest and follow ground-sniffing hounds through oak forests before you enjoy a glass of wine with your unearthed treasure.
Pique your white-truffle interest by wandering Alba’s streets during the weekend truffle fairs in October and November. The village smacks of earthy, umami aromas as vendors peddle truffle-scented creams, oils and specimens. At the International Alba White Truffle Fair, take a sensory analysis of the truffle class, which offers tips on how to select and store the good stuff.
White truffles have a short shelf-life, as their delicate pungency diminishes quickly. Try to hunt a fresh one with a trifulau, or truffle handler, and their dog. Start by contacting the local tourism board of Alba, Bra, Langhe and Roero, the Consorzio Turistico Langhe Monferrato Roero. The former connects you with location-based operators, the latter sells tours on the site that include outings in vintage cars.
With thousands of dollars at stake, the business breeds fierce competition. Authentic hunters work under cloak of night to hide their routes, while daytime tours offer a taste of the fun. Discovery of white gold isn’t guaranteed. If your hunter nabs one, plan to pay by the gram, in cash.
Certified guide and sommelier Silvia Aprato runs Tasting Tours. She’s organized individual and small-group excursions that have emphasis on the region’s wines since 2005. Whether a day trip or longer trek, she weaves truffle hunts and tastings into her Barolo & Barbareso Wine Tour.
Valerie Quintanilla books clients through referrals as well as her website, Girl’s Gotta Drink. She avoids mass-market travel sites to attract clientele who share her interest in culture and wine. Customizable programs vary, though packaged examples include a truffle hunt paired with a full-day wine tour, and a truffle hunt followed by a truffle-themed cooking class, lunch and wine pairings in a vineyard.
Tour Divini, well-known for bike tours, works with excellent local guides. Though experiences can differ, the company’s tasting tour focuses exclusively on Slow Food, an international organization that works to preserve and celebrate local food cultures, and its approved restaurants and wine producers.
If you have any free evenings, dine in Alba. Restaurants shave fresh truffles over traditional egg pasta called tajarin. With a glass of Barolo, it’s a taste of heaven and earth.