The Alba White Truffle festival is a month long event running from mid October to mid November. Lucky for me there is also a focus on the wine regions of Piedmonte, which we discovered just five minutes after leaving our AirBnB. Every Friday evening of the festival there are close to a dozen wine producers out on the streets of Alba pouring sparkling wines, Dolcetto, Barbera, Barbaresco and Barolos. Once we found out the tastings were complimentary we had to pinch ourselves and ask ‘how did happen upon this magical, wonderful place’? The streets weren’t too crowded so it was easy to have a conversation with the producers and other tourists.
I booked a truffle hunt for the following morning and found a wonderful company on the Internet. I would highly recommend www.italianna.com. Our meeting with the truffle hunter was on a Saturday at 9:30am in the town of La Morra. We met our guide and his hunting dog, Daisy and made our way into the La Morra forest.
Daisy is a special truffle hunting breed from Emilia Romagna. She is full of energy and happiest when she is outside and hunting truffles. In October the region is in the ‘cross-over season’ when the hunt for black and white truffles over lap. The white truffle is very rare and especially scarce this year (2015). The summer was too sunny with not enough rain. Therefore the prices are sky high, going for 450 euros per 100 grams!
We were not made any promises that we would even find a truffle but were still delighted to spend 1.5hrs in the La Morra forest learning about the skills and the life of the truffle hunter and his dog.
The dogs are always a female because they have more focus and concentration then the males. They often hunt in the night and do multiple treks throughout the day, getting only 4 or 5 hours of sleep. Daisy is a very valuable dog and was trained as a pup with a toy ball stuffed with a truffle.
Truffles grow close to roots of trees so the hunter keeps a close eye on Daisy if she starts to dig near a root. The hunter said he knows if Daisy has found a truffle because her tail starts to wag. He then has to lunge to grab her away from her dig, so she doesn’t damage the truffle. We were lucky that we got to witness this FIVE times!! Every time she found a truffle the hunter would say “Brava Daisy, Brava”, then give her a treat and a kiss. We figured the 5 black truffles she found had a value of 100 euros. It was a good morning!
Back in the town of Alba where Jiska and I are staying, we went to the truffle market and fair. The fair had rows of display cases showing black and white truffles, ready for sale from their hunter. In addition there were wine producers, cheese and salami makers and a wine bar (where we spent most of our time). You can purchase a glass of wine for 3 or 4 euros or a bottle from one of the finest producers in the region.
Out on the narrow streets of Alba we found a medieval fair in the evening. There were many food and drink stands plus activities for kids and adults. Jiska and I spent WAY too much time at this addicting game (in the photos below game) where you try to loop a ring that hangs off a fishing pole, onto the neck of a wine bottle. We were unsuccessful, but I have been making plans to construct this set up in my Vancouver apartment!