Below & Above Takes France and Italy: A Wine and Truffle Tour

It's a hard job, but someone has to do it!

First stop was Piedmont in the north-west corner of Italy; home of the Baralo and Barbaresco wine varietals and the gastronomic legend that is the White Alba Truffle.

While there was no shortage of wine for the tasting (and boy it was tasted) Alba was a particularly insightful truffle stop. Among the world's most scarce and therefore highly coveted white truffle. This truffle is renowned for emptying bank accounts.

The white truffle has a distinct, captivating aroma and a more delicate taste than black truffle. It is best served uncooked on risotta, pasta or eggs.

Little or no rainfall across the year meant white truffle supplies were low, and prices were high. At the time of our visit white truffle was being sold for a whooping 10 000 euros per kilogram. So safe to saw we limited ourselves to one exorbitantly priced truffle dish and it was delicious.

We were lucky enough to rediscover a local culinary gem we had previously enjoyed on a trip two years ago. This restaurant served up the ultimate Italian dining experience and the meal of the trip. This restaurant has no menu, the chief simply feeds you until you are full and tell her to stop. She lost money on Theo! You are then offered a cheese selection of over 80 local cheeses.

Each course is brimming with local seasonal produce and the dishes served change daily. The entire meal was accompanied by our choice of Barlo wines in magnum.

During the first leg of the trip the thing that resonated with us the people and their powerful old world regional loyalty.

Second stop, the Rhone wine region, south eastern France. Specifically Chateauneuf du-Pape a small village in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur region north of Avignon.

This stop was all about black truffles. We were lucky enough to witness the exclusive Saturday truffle market in Richerenche , Provence. 15 registered traders all operating from the back of their vans and alot of cash was traded! It is hear the best truffles in the world enter the global market and potentially end up in restaurants around the world. It is not uncommon for millions of euros to be traded at the Saturday markets.

It was also interesting to observe that all truffles are used. Nothing is thrown out. They are either preserved or used in products such as mustards etc.

Given Burgundy is Below & Above's favourite type of wine to drink we thought we better go to the source of some PInot NOir research and stopped at the sub regions of Montrachet, Vosne, Romanee and of course the beautiful town of Beunne.

We gained alot of insight into the tightly regulated production practices of the region, such sa the need to hold specific licences to produce certain wine varietals. Their plots are only small (by Australian standards) at around 1 hectare. and Grand Cru vineyards are the highest level of vineyard classification in Burgundy.

There is 550 hectares of the 28000 hectares producing Grand Cru wines.

People are very regional loyal. Only drinking and eating from their own regions. As Australians I think we need to learn to have a little more local loyalty. All in all we learnt that other then Grand Cru wines Australians, specifically Pemberton we produce some beautiful wines.

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