If the French are proud of their black truffles, then the Italians are equally as proud of the great Alba white truffle. They are often referred to as ‘white diamonds’ due to their rarity and desirability and their location and gathering is shrouded in much the same secrecy as their French counterparts. The truffle hunters of the Piedmont region of Italy are known as trifolau and truffle season is one of the most important times of the year in the region. Although they’re called white truffles, the colour can vary quite drastically and many of the truffles will be closer to brown in colour, than white. The colour, shape and flavour of the truffle are all dependent on the type of tree and the soil, as well as other factors such as rain levels and temperature. When the truffle hunt is on, however, no one really cares about such details. It’s every man and his dog for himself and the best team will uncover the most truffles.
To make the whole experience appear even more magical, most truffle hunting occurs at night-time. It’s believed that this is when the scent is strongest, which makes it easier for the dogs to locate their prizes. Personally I think it’s more to do with the romantic notion of going hunting in the dark: man and beast working together for a common cause. Or, maybe it’s just so the hunters can’t be followed and their favourite and most lucrative spots discovered by impostors trying their luck or hoping to strike it lucky. This nightly ritual continues from September to December as the truffle season runs its course and hungry restaurateurs around the world wait with baited breath for the latest batch of top-quality Alba truffles to arrive at their doors. Then it’s on to the serious business of eating one of the world’s most expensive delicacies.