Is there any food that is more luxurious than truffles? The only one that we can think of that gives it a run for its money is caviar. In both cases, these are the foods of the elite and you’re unlikely to find them anywhere but the most upscale dining establishments.
Perhaps it’s because of this that many people don’t know a whole lot about truffles. Yes, you may know that they’re a type of fungus and that people have traditionally used trained pigs to sniff them out. But they’re so rarely a part of your dining experience that you haven’t really explored them or the Italian wine pairings that can really make them pop.
But that’s okay!
You don’t need to go veering off into the darkest corners of the web to try and sniff out some truffle factoids. In this article, we’re going to share some of the most interesting facts about this most luxurious of foods. And what’s more, we’re going to clue you in on a few wine and truffle pairings that will knock your socks off.
Fact #1 – There Are Thousands of Types of Truffles
Given the exclusivity of truffles, you would assume that there are only a few examples of the species on the planet. However, that’s not the case. There are literally thousands of types of truffle spread all over the world. In fact, Australia alone can lay claim to hosting over a thousand types of this tasty fungus.
But if that’s the case, why are truffles so rare? Why aren’t we eating them at the same rate that we eat mushrooms and other types of plant?
Unfortunately, not every truffle is a taste sensation. In fact, the vast majority of truffles taste so bad that they’re practically inedible. Of the thousands in existence, there are only a select few that can find their way onto a dinner plate. Perhaps that’s why we’ve had to train animals to sniff them out, seeing as we’d have to rely on our sense of taste alone if we didn’t have them.
Fact #2 – Human Have Eaten Truffles for Centuries
Truffles are by no means a modern discovery.
In fact, the oldest records of them in existence date back to the 1st century AD. In his historic tomes, Pliny the Elder talks about truffles as being a favourite dish of the Roman nobility.
But it’s also not the Romans who discovered truffles. Pliny also makes mention of the fact that the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt were partial to a truffle or two themselves. That means consumption of this wonderful fungus dates back to before the birth of Christ.
We don’t know for sure who first came up with the idea of eating them. But it seems like the ancient Egyptians may be in with a shout, at least if we are to believe the writing of Pliny.
Fact #3 – Pigs Are Sort of Ideal Truffle Hunters
As we mentioned earlier, truffle hunters tend to use pigs to locate these tasty fungi. It seems that pigs have a certain preference for truffles and, if given the opportunity, they’ll swallow them up faster than a hiccup.
But therein lies a problem.
Pigs aren’t the most delicate of animals in the world. If they’re not extremely well-trained, they’re liable to eat any of the truffles that they find before anybody else can get to them. And even if they are well-trained, they’re not quite as dainty with their noses as dogs. A pig may very well destroy a truffle with its nose without even eating it. That makes it useless to everybody, which means that those on the hunt for truffles have to be very careful.
So, pigs are the best animal for locating truffles. But at the same time, they’re not an ideal animal in terms of how delicate they are with the fungus.
Fact #4 – Rice is A Truffle’s Best Friend…
At least when it comes to storing these delectable little treats.
While truffles thrive on the roots of certain types of trees when they’re out in the wild, they love nothing more than curling up in a nice ball of rice when you finally get them back home.
Why is rice such an awesome storage vessel for truffles.
It’s due to rice’s ability to soak up water. The rice stabilises the humidity around truffle, which means it doesn’t get affected by damp seeping in. And what’s more, this little partnership works both ways. Not only do you get truffles that are as tasty as can be, but you also end up with rice that has an infusion of truffle flavouring.
What more could you ask for?
The Wine Pairings
With those facts out of the way, let’s get to a question that we know you’re all asking yourselves. Which Italian wines pair best with my truffles.
Many will tell you that age is the key here. For example, any aged wine made using the Nebbiolo grape will pair extremely well with truffles. That means the Barolo that’s been sitting in your wine cellar for the last few years just may be the perfect choice.
Old sparkling wines work well too. Champagne may be the preferred choice, but Italian wines made using the traditional method should also work pretty well here. If the wine has a medium-body, it’s a good choice.
And veering away from Italian wines, we also have both red and white Burgundy. Both types of grapes seem to have that special little something that brings out the best in truffles.
The Final Word
Perhaps truffles aren’t exactly at the top of your shopping list when it comes to the foods you’re going to get during your weekly shop. But the next time you’re at a nice restaurant, we fully recommend giving them a try. And if you can pair them with one of the types of wines we’ve mentioned above, you’re going to have an amazing experience.