Apologies for not posting for a while but I have been busy writing articles about my last three press trips. They all should be appearing in Italia! magazine in the next few months. The one about my trip to San Gimignano should be in next month so do watch out for it. I shall be posting on a regular basis from now on. I am bursting to share my experience and knowledge of Italian food with you all. This time I am going to tell you more about The Langhe in Piedmont, a great area for foodies to visit.
The Langhe region of Piedmont has recently been designated a Unesco World heritage Site. October and November are the best months to visit when the White truffle Fair is held in the centre of Alba. However it is well worth a visit any time of the year. As well as being the area where the Slow Movement (more about this later) originated there are a wonderful selection of vineyards to visit . it is also well known for its hazelnuts and has a Honey Route you can follow too. One of the biggest employers in the area is Ferraro, who make Nutella and the famous Ferraro Rocher chocolates,
The Truffle Fair in Alba is held over six weekends, from the second week of October to the third week in November and many events are organised to coincide with it such as wine tastings and art exhibitions. The Fair has also become better known thanks to awarding the Truffle of the Year to an international or Italian celebrity. A few who have visited Alba to collect their truffle include Sophia Loren, Luciano Pavarotti, Gerard Depardieu, Sting and Penelope Cruz.
On my trip to the truffle Fair I was invited to go to a truffle sensory analysis event where I learnt all about white truffles and was allowed to touch, squeeze and smell them. Here I learnt that the White Truffles of Alba are considered to be the finest truffles in Italy. There are different types of truffle. As well as the white truffle there is the Black truffle which is often found in Umbria, the summer or Scorzone truffle, the Bianchetto or Marzuolo truffle, the black winter truffle or the smooth black truffle. I also learnt thar truffles found under different types of trees could vary a great deal in colour , smell and size. The most popular trees to find them under are Oak, Poplar, Aspen and Goat Willow. truffle hunting is allowed from late summer to early winter but the white truffle reaches full maturity around the middle of October. Truffles only grow wild and no cultivation techniques exist. The best weather for truffles is a wet summer and a sunny autumn. When this happens this makes the price more affordable. The year I was there (2014) this happened and the truffles were being sold for 2,000 euros a kilogram. This was down from 3,500 euros the year before and 5,000 the year before that.. Truffles have to be eaten as soon as possible and cannot be kept any longer than a week. The best way of storing them is by wrapping them up in kitchen roll and putting them in an airtight glass jar and keeping them cool. Whilst in Alba I visited Tartufi Morra, a truffle shop that was founded in 1930 by Giocomo Morra. He was the person responsible for starting the Alba Truffle Fair and it is because of him that Alba became so well known for its white truffles throughout the world. It was his inspired idea to award a truffle to a famous personality of the day.
The area is also famous for its vineyards. The unquestioned king and queen of the region are Barolo and Barberesco, both of which are produced from Nebbiolo grapes. I tried some Barolo one of my vineyard tours . No way was I going to spit it out like you are supposed to.
Not far from Alba is the town of Bra, the birthplace of the Slow Movement which was founded in 1986 by Carlo Petrini and which is dedicated to countering the global spread of fast food. In 2003 the movement founded The University of Gastronomic Science in nearby Pollenzo. It is the first institution to treat food and drink as an academic discipline, with degree courses on educating the palate. Also near here is the Banca Del Vino. It is a wine bank that collects as many wines from Italy as possible. It hosts wine tours and tastings and other events to promote the culture of wine.
If after reading all about truffles you are eager to find out more there is a book ( available from Amazon) called Discovering the Truffle (ISBN 9788884993687).