Europe’s most prized truffle season takes place in two acts. First, Italy’s white diamond comes to market from September to December, with Alba’s Annual Truffle Fair kicking off in October. Bringing in the New Year, both Italy and France harvest the black winter truffle from December until February.
Act I: The White Alba Truffle
In the Italian province of Cuneo lies a small town called Alba, where the most exquisite and rare white truffle grows. The white tuber magnatum native to this region harvests from the end of September until December. Known as the white diamond or king of truffles, it is easily recognized for its beige flesh with white veins.
During the months of October and November, the town of Alba in Piedmont hosts an Annual Truffle Fair where you can enjoy some of the best and freshest truffles the world has to offer; or just watch as they get auctioned off at astronomical prices. The fair is really not to be missed, combining local festivities, culture, food and wine.
The town is a delight in itself, part of the hilly Langhe region, where some of Italy’s best wines are from. Open a scrumptious bottle of Barbaresco or Barolo red wine and snack on truffled salamis and cheese while savouring the views of the sunset reflecting off the snow-capped Alps.
Act II: The Black Truffle
When the Alba harvest ends, the second most important – and expensive – truffle harvest begins. The black tuber melanosporum, also known as the Perigord winter black truffle, is best enjoyed in January and February. Although it gets its name from Perigord in southwestern France, it also grows in Italy, known there as Dolce di Norcia, and is even cultivated in New Zealand.
Truffle hunting takes place year-round throughout Southern Europe. However, for a once-in-a-lifetime, bucket-list-worthy experience, visit Alba or Perigord during harvest season to truly appreciate this delicacy. Every truffle hunter has a story to tell about the biggest and best truffle he ever found! In France, book a Relais & Chateaux hotel (see post) and dine on fine French cuisine punctuated with black truffles. You can also go truffle hunting for the tuber aestivum around the beautiful Lake Geneva in Switzerland.
It’s Not All Black and White
The white Alba and black Perigord are indeed the top two, crème de la crème truffle varieties of the world. But it’s all a matter of taste (and budget!) There are also a few other types worth knowing. France harvests the popular Burgundy tuber uncinatum truffle from September through December. The Spanish tuber brumale, for example, is one of the most abundant black truffles in Europe. The black summer truffle tuber aestivum is the least aromatic and tasty, commonly found in the warmer months. For more information, see post: Truffles 101: Key Facts You Should Know.
Wherever you are, chefs and restaurateurs from around the world will be looking to get their hands on the white Alba and the black Perigord truffles during the harvest season. Now is the time to visit the best French or Italian restaurants near you and order up a large plate of this exquisite delicacy. It will be expensive, but for such a treat enjoyed for such a short time of the year, I urge you to indulge at least once.
Featured Photo Credit: Eric Chan