The fall brings some of life’s greatest pleasures: a new season of “30 Rock,” pennant races, the grape harvest and, finally, toward the end of October, Italy’s white truffles.
Tuber magnatum is Latin for the fungus that is sniffed out of the Piedmontese soil by trained dogs. While they often resemble organs, these truffles are among the most-coveted gastronomique delights, fetching hundreds of dollars for a nugget that can fit very comfortably in your hand.
Pungent and savory, truffles have a scent that is unique. If only newspaper columns could come with a scratch-and-sniff, you could take a whiff of what I mean. Maybe one day.
Which wine matches best with your truffle-infused dishes? White burgundies are always good. Alsatian riesling and pinot gris can work as well. On the red side, Piedmont’s vast assortment of Nebbiolo-based wines as well as many a Barbera match. Sangiovese from the central Italian regions are a no-brainer. If you want to go farther south in Italy, agliancios from Campania and Basilicata can be fantastic with truffles. Returning to Burgundy, well, enough said.
Pinot noir is sublime with truffles in general but the earthy, mushroom funk of the Côte d’Or’s terroir is puts its wines on the same plain as Barolo when it comes to truffles.
This week is going to be a little expensive, but if you are going to spring for a truffle, also treat yourself to a wine that is worth the extra money.
Castello dei Rampolla Chianti Classico, 2006 (Tuscany, Italy): From its first vintage in 1975, Castello dei Rampolla has been a Tuscan maverick. Rumor has it that cabernet sauvignon made its way into the Chianti Classico long before the DOCG approval. It has also been a biodynamic property for a decade. Nonetheless, this wine is a good, old Chianti Classico at its best with cedar, tobacco leaf, briary cherry fruit, fine tannins and plenty of acidity. Suggested retail: $30
Antoniolo Gattinara La Castelle, 2004 (Piedmont, Italy): Barolo and Barbaresco get most of the Nebbiolo props but northern Piedmont has some troves as well. A DOCG, Gattinara is a little bit cooler than the wines from the Langhe and, as a result, the wines are often very acidic and age worthy. A small, family-run estate, Antoniolo makes four Gattinaras. La Castelle is aged in barrique for 24 months but now, at six years of age, the oak has integrated and the wine exudes terroir. Medium-bodied with dried roses, blackberries, raspberry juice and a hint of tar, it is a value compared with many a Barolo of the same quality. Suggested retail: $55
Ferret Pouilly Fuisse, Tournant de Pouilly, 2002 (Burgundy, France): If you can find this wine, and you might, grab a bottle, truffles or not. Colette Ferret ran this 250-year-old family estate until 2008, when it was purchased by Louis Jadot. The wines age incredibly well and are often held back for later release. With stony minerality, honeycomb and hot buttered nuts in the nose, red apples, almonds and a long, epic finish, this is on par with the best wines in the Côtes-du-Beaune. Suggested retail: $66
Pamela S. Busch is the wine director and proprietor of CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen in San Francisco.