I am curious, like my colleague James Suckling, what the fuss is about truffles. So I’m traveling to Piedmont to find out firsthand for myself.
It’s a region that has long interested me. I’ll be staying in the Barolo zone and visiting a few producers of Barolo and Barbaresco.
To whet my appetite, I braved the miserable weather this past Monday morning to attend a tasting of Barolo and enjoy a lunch with white truffles at San Domenico restaurant in New York.
The tasting showed six different vintages of Barolo, chosen by the Enoteca Regionale of Barolo, led by Claudio Rosso, president of the Consorzio of Barolo. Each wine—2003, 1998, 1996, 1993, 1990 and 1988—was blind. That is, no producers were identified. Rather, each wine was chosen as a “typical Barolo of the region” for that particular vintage.
The 1990 was the standout, although the 1988 was drinking well and would be my choice for Thanksgiving dinner. The 1993 was showing its age, while both the ’98 and ’96 were fresh, pure and firm. The 2003 revealed a softer, fleshier profile.
At lunch, we enjoyed some regional dishes like Antica Tartra, a savory Piedmontese custard, and Uovo in Raviolo di Bergese (soft egg-filled raviolo) with shaved white truffles. A breast of Guinea hen was served with wild mushrooms.
Apparently, the truffle season has not been good this year. The dry weather inhibited the formation of the tubers. As a result, the small crop has led to inflated prices in the $8,000 per kilo range.
However, according to Claudio Rosso, the August rains that were just what was needed for the vines also helped the truffle crop. The best are available now. Just in time for my trip.