White truffle from Alba

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White Truffle of Tuscany
White truffles

The white truffle from Alba is the Tuber magnatum,  or trifola d’Alba Madonna (“Truffle of the White Madonna” in Italian; Tuber Magnatum Pico or Alba truffle).

You can find it mainly in the Langhe and Montferrat areas of the Piedmont region in northern Italy. Most famously, in the countryside around the cities of Alba and Asti.

The Italian White Truffle is one of the most expensive and prestigious organic specialty food products in the world. This is due to its unique and exceptional flavour and its rarity. Truffle dogs find very few every season.

There are also many white truffle products, like oils, butters, sauces, but it is often fake. Remember: bottles with truffle oil made from real truffles contains pieces of truffle at the bottom!

So read more in our guide to online best truffle buying here.

Its prestige and price is due to the fact that white truffles cannot be cultivated.  And you can only find them in the wild. You can sometimes during season buy white truffles online, but it is not easy.

White truffles from Alba are world’s most valuable truffles

White truffle
White truffle and shaver

The white truffle market in Alba is busiest in the months of October and November. This is when the Fiera del Tartufo (truffle fair) takes place.

Coldiretti, the main Italian agricultural organization, estimates that the current price of white truffle is currently around $2000 per pound. They are much more expensive than the black truffles.

In 2017 a set of white Alba truffles weighing just under two pounds sold for over 75,000 euros (over $85,000). Source: CNBC.

In 2019 a white truffle weighing just over 1 kg was sold for 120,000 euros, or around 120 euros per gram. This was at the 20th world auction held in Alba, near Turin, AFP noted.

The sale was held at the same time in Moscow, Singapore and Hong Kong ,where the buyer, whose identity was not revealed, comes from.

The sale, the proceeds of which traditionally go to charity, brought in 120,000 euros. It went to the “Mother’s Choice” Institute in Hong Kong, which helps children without families and young mothers in difficulty, and the Dmitry Rogachev Centre in Moscow, which specialises in research into childhood cancer.

The price of this exceptional truffle does not correspond to the market price, which currently stands at around 375 euros per 100 grams on the Alba market, which serves as a national benchmark, according to Coldiretti, Italy’s main farming organisation.

A history of a very famous truffle

White truffles
White truffles

The Romans were already lovers of truffles. A classic recipe book (De Re Coquinaria) attributed to Marcus Gavius Apicius already included recipes based on truffles. This noble tuber was the highest level of chic at Roman banquets. The Romans believed that truffles grew at the foot of trees that had been struck by Jupiter’s thunderbolts.

According to certain documents, in 1380 the princes of Acaja offered white truffles to a certain Princess Bona.
Charles V a few years earlier had the privilege of tasting this dish during the siege of Alba.

Today we know that in reality it is an underground tuber living in symbiosis with the rootlets (part of the roots) of hazelnut trees, oaks, poplars). It takes about ten years before the mushroom is ripe.

The white truffle of Alba is harvested from 21 September to 31 January. In the region, the real race for truffles begins in September/October (the period when the first white truffles ripen). Gourmets have to rely on the “trifulau” (truffle hunter) as it is called in Piedmont to be able to enjoy it. They are often accompanied by pigs or, more commonly, by their dogs which have an unfailing sense of smell. Especially with pigs it is not always easy to prevent them from consuming the precious truffles before they can be collected.

Very often rituals surround these quests, with the position of the moon, the barometer which should indicate favourable conditions. only when the time is right, the Piedmontese truffle grower & his dog leave at night in search of the precious tiber.

Every year for 88 years, the town of Alba, in Piedmont, has hosted a large white truffle fair for almost two months, during which the auction takes place.

A precious tuber

Sliced white truffle in oil
Sliced white truffle in oil

The Tuber magnatum Pico, the official name of the white truffle, grows in soils that must remain cool and humid both in the germination and maturation phases.

it is a fungus that lives underground and consists of a high percentage of water and minerals absorbed by the soil thanks to the roots of the tree with which it lives in symbiosis. It grows close to the roots of pine, holm oak, cork oak and oak from which it derives its characteristics (colour, taste and smell).

In Italy, it can be found in Piedmont, Marche, Tuscany and Umbria (northern and central regions) but also further south in Lazio and Calabria.

According to Coldiretti, more than 100,000 official collectors are involved in the supply of white truffles to shops, restaurants and businesses with an estimated turnover of around 500 million euros, whether the product is fresh, preserved or processed.

Habitat of the white truffle other than around Alba

Other places than the Piedmont region where white truffle can be found:

  • Acqualagna, in the northern part of the Marche near Urbino, is another center for the production and commercialization of white truffles, and its annual festival is one of the most important in Italy.
  • In recent years search for truffles became very popular in Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially in the regions of Vlašić, Lisina and Kozara. Also in the western part of Herzegovina region, around village of Služanj and town of Čitluk, theree are white truffles.
  • White truffles also come from Molise, Abruzzo and in the hills around San Miniato, in Tuscany.
  • Furthermore you can find them in the Istria peninsula, in Croatia in the Motovun forest along the Mirna river.
  • In Slovenia along the Dragonja and Rizana river.
  • In the Drome area in France.

Source: mainly Wikipedia.


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