Talking about the White Truffle of Alba, when everything’s already been said and written, is not easy, it’s like walking on thin ice but at the same time it’s quite stimulating to focus on a different perspective, involving in the story all those great wines and marvellous dishes able to enhance this gift of our land, but which, if inadequate, could break all its magic.
The French people, to say “pairing”, make use of the word “accord”: the term that probably better conveys the idea of searching for harmony.
In a marriage, harmony happens to be between two completely different persons who, thanks to their complementarity and sometimes to their contrasts, create a balance; otherwise between two similar persons who can walk together, indeed, in accord.
Well then, what kind is this White Truffle of Alba? What’s its character and how does it stand in a relationship?
Marrying a Truffle means relating with a very talented, high-profile character, a superstar, a fine story teller, a histrionic one: all of them magnificent and complex personalities but also extremely fragile, delicate, sometimes perhaps even moody.
Here is that the groom, or the bride (be the wine or dish or whatever) will have to indulge and accompany it, preferably being aware to always stay one step behind.
Honey, hay, garlic, spices, forest floor, mushrooms are just a few of the elements that contribute to the stunning aromatic complexity of the Truffle.
Therefore, we must not choose a wine that is too structured, too aromatic or with a strong oaky component, to avoid overwhelming the aromas of the Truffle; at the same time, the wine gets paired with the Truffle taking into account the dish that accompanies and supports our hypogeous mushroom, so we must not focus on the latter but consider the complete dish instead.
So let’s start by proposing some dishes and wines, starting with some classics that never fail short on the Langa tables.
A Fassona steak tartare, slightly haematic and sweetish, goes well with the pungency of the Truffle and can be paired with a classic Dolcetto, or a white wine, such as Arneis.
The egg in its various forms, with or without cheese, is a perfect partner for the Truffle: a nice, rich fondue gets balanced by a Barbera or an Albarossa, while the simple but very effective pan-fried egg finds balance with an Alta Langa that cleans the greasiness of the yolk, leaving room for the aromas of the Truffle.
Adding body, the egg wrapped in pasta, a creation of the Great Nino Bergese, pan-sautéed with butter, is an opulent first course able to enhance our Truffle and allows you to pour a glass of Nebbiolo d’Alba which, with its still fresh aromas of flowers and small red fruits, perfectly completes the dish.
When the last spoonful of bagna caôda is left in the blazing hot Fujot, it’s an old habit to break an egg in its bowl and taste it with a shaving of the Alba White Truffle: traditionally it goes well with a Dolcetto or a Grignolino of the current vintage, but it could be a surprise if paired with a dry Moscato.
Still in the context of tradition, a creamy butter and Parmesan risotto with a generous shaving of the Truffle usually gets paired with one of our great Nebbiolos; whether it is a Barolo, a Barbaresco or a Roero, it is advisable to opt for a version with already “softened and silky” tannins and with a well integrated wood. It is preferable to select from the subareas that, generally speaking, offer a more “gentle” wine.
The same goes for the dish that is way more paired with the Truffle, the tajarin with butter; however this is a topic of another post on this blog.
In recent years leading chefs have experimented and noodled about a multitude of combinations, sometimes very innovative, from fish to oriental cuisine: so we can’t avoid some proposals out of the box based on the seafood.
A seared scallop, sautéed with melted butter and covered by the Alba White Truffle shaving, paired with a rich Nascetta from Novello.
A purple shrimp tartare, seasoned with some extra virgin olive oil and a bunch of White Truffle flakes, paired with a Chardonnay-based Alta Langa.
A handful of Tajarin seasoned with cod previously creamed with milk and Grana cheese, inundated with the Truffle and paired with an international grape variety nowadays well-established in the Langa, the Riesling, which, thanks to its hydrocarbon notes, goes pretty well with this dish.
Let’s round off on a sweet note our little journey among the dishes and wines that marry our Truffle with a fiordilatte ice-cream, Alba White Truffle flakes and a tulip glass of Moscato passito.
When a “stranger” begins a journey in our land, after a few minutes a smile appears; this smile is constantly triggered by the ever changing insights, at times visual, tactile, olfactory: and here is where our beloved Truffle, our cuisine and our wines turn on and amaze all these senses at the same time, and then the smile definitely sprouts with a promise to return.
Well then, whether this journey takes place as a velvety taxi ride or an adventurous off-road route, the destination will always be the same, the place that all of us Knights in the world will always call Home.
by Ugo Venturino