Wine Culture and Information - Volume 17
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Truffle

Present in the cultures of many countries, since ancient times it has contributed to enrich foods with its characteristic and unmistakable aroma

 Truffle is a mushroom living underground, having the shape of a tuber, whose inside is made of a fleshy mass and covered by a rind. According to a botanical point of view, truffle is a mushroom, belonging to the tuber family, but, as opposed to epigeous mushrooms - the ones that in a particular point of their life sprout out of the earth - truffles are hypogeal, that is live underground. As opposed to plants, mushrooms - and therefore truffles as well - have a different life cycle: the growth of mycelium, that is the dense web of filaments which spreads for a long radius; the development of the fruit, known as “truffle”; the emission of spores during reproduction. As the spores are ripe, truffle emits its intense aroma: this is the signal it is now ready to pick it out of the earth. In nature truffle's spores have a very resistant external rind - suited for being eaten, digested and evacuated intact by animals which eat these kind of mushrooms - so they can return to the earth and begin a new reproductive cycle.

 The life of truffles is strongly connected to the one of plants. In fact, truffles live in symbiosis with them, or better to say, with their roots: poplar, hazelnut, lime, willow, pine and many more. The mushroom helps the plant in the searching of water and of other nutritional substances. As it does not have any chlorophyll, the plant provides to the hypogeal mushroom all the substances it cannot synthesize itself, in other words, the plant provides sugar and vitamins, whereas the mushroom provides mineral elements to the plant. Thanks to the high development of hyphae in the ground, truffle can occupy a larger area than a single root can do, therefore increasing the nutritional capabilities of the plant. As truffles live in symbiosis with a tree, the organoleptic qualities of a truffle will change according to the hosting plant. For example, the presence of oak will give the mushroom a more pungent aroma, whereas lime will give a more aromatic smell.

 

Truffle in History


 

 Concerning the existence of truffle, the first information are dated back to 1700 - 1600 BC, during the age of Sumerians. Ancient Romans supported the idea the best truffles were the ones from Greece and Libya; according the Cremonese physician Bartolomeo Platina, lived in the 1400's, the best ones were those from Greece, Africa and Syria. Greeks called it hydra or Hydnon, from which derives hydnology, the science which studies truffles. Latins called it Tuber. The first book completely dedicated to the truffle is dated back to 1564, written by Alfonso Ciccarelli, an Umbrian physician. In Europe it was also called “rich garlic” because of its light aroma of garlic; Alexandre Dumas defined it as the Sancta Sanctorum of the table.

 In the Eastern world, truffle is found in China and Japan. It seems native Indians of America knew truffle but there are no information about the use they made of it. In France, Bourgogne and Provence are famous places for truffles. In Germany, since 1700's, in the areas of Brandenburg and Saxony, truffles are being used. In Italy truffles are found in almost the whole territory. Since many years they are trying, with no appreciable results, to reproduce the necessary environment for mycorization - that is the ideal environment for the cultivation of truffles - but it seems these conditions are hardly reproducible, or maybe there are not enough information or knowledge about this subject.

 

Varieties of Truffles

 When truffles are mentioned, it is never appropriate to generalize, as there are many varieties. Esteemed White Truffle, whose scientific name is Tuber Magnatum Pico, is considered by many as the best truffle, also known as “Alba's Truffle” or “Piedmont's Truffle”, as it abundantly grows in these areas. It can also be found in some areas of central Italy and in South France. The time of harvesting goes from September to December. The aspect is irregular, with protuberances and depressions, the surface is smooth and slightly velvety. It shows a pale ochre or deep cream color as well as greenish. The flesh is white, sometime white-gray, with white streaking. The aroma is strong and typical (aromas of garlic and cheese), which is strongly different from all other types of truffle, making it unmistakable. It lives in symbiosis with oak, lime, poplar and willow trees. In order to live, white truffle requires a soft and humid soil, rich in calcium, with a good aeration. it is among the most expensive truffles and it is preferably consumed raw.


White truffle
White truffle

 Whitish Truffle, whose scientific name is Tuber Borchii Vitt, has a pretty similar aspect to white truffle and with which can be easily confused thanks to its color and irregular shape, however as it ripens the color gets deeper as well as the inside part. The main difference from the real white truffle can be recognized to the nose: whitish truffle has a stronger garlic aroma. Once picked it has a light and pleasing aroma, however with time, it degenerates in garlic and nauseating aromas. It prefers limestone soils, it is usually found in conifers woods. The harvesting time is from January to March. It is a pretty valued truffle in Tuscany, Marches and Romagna, it is common is Europe and Australia as well.

 Esteemed Black Truffle, whose scientific name is Tuber Melanosporum Vitt, known in Italy as “Norcia's Truffle” or “Spoleto's Truffle”, in France as Truffe de Perigord. The aspect has a pretty homogeneous shape, round with small protuberances similar to warts. The color is deep brown-black with rust nuances when rub. The internal part, that is the flesh, shows a pale color. To the nose has an intense, aromatic and fruity aroma. It grows in hilly areas in symbiosis with hazelnut and oak trees. The harvesting time is from December (after Christmas) to March, the best quality is harvested in February. In order to recognize the places in which it can be found, a good method is to observe the soil. The places in which truffle generally grows are lacking of vegetation, because of the action of the mycelium: by paying more attention it will be noticed grass tends to be absent just under the tree. Another clue to find truffles is to watch a particular fly, the Anisotoma Cinnamomea, which prefers leaving its eggs in places near truffles. It grows in France and precisely in Provence and in Italy, in particular in central Apennines, as well as in Piedmont, Lombardy and Veneto. It can be consumed both raw and cooked.

 Winter Black Truffle, whose scientific name is Tuber Brumale Vitt, shows a black-brown color, a slightly warty surface, the flesh has a gray color and gets deeper by showing whitish streaking. It can be confused with the esteemed black truffle, both for its color and for the same environment, including the fact it prefers living in symbiosis with the same plants. To the nose has a nutmeg smell. It can be defined as the lesser brother of esteemed black, as its commercial value is about the half. It ripens in wintertime and it is common all over Europe.

 Summer Truffle, whose scientific name is Tuber Aestivum Vitt, is very similar to black truffle, the external surface has evident deep colored warts, sometimes black and with a vaguely pyramidal shape. To the nose has an intense and aromatic smell, however less pronounced than other blacks. The difference with black truffle can be recognized by watching the internal part which tends to a deep yellow color. As for the environment, it grows on many soil types, both clay and sandy, it is found in woods. The harvesting time is from May to December. It is used for the production of sauces and cold cuts. It is common in Europe and North Africa.

 Smooth Black Truffle, whose scientific name is Tuber Macrosporum Vitt, has a smooth aspect with some warts, a gray reddish color and the pulp has the same color. To the nose recalls white truffle, it prefers living in symbiosis with poplars, oaks, hazelnuts and limes. The smooth black truffle is not very common and it is not commercialized, as it is very hard to find, however it is particularly appreciated locally. It is found in Europe and North America.


Black Truffles
Black Truffles

 Truffle of Bagnoli, whose scientific name is Tuber Mesentericum, shows a deep brown color, the external side is warty, the internal flesh is whitish with white streaking, similar to summer truffle, in which the most evident difference is represented by the aroma. Truffle of Bagnoli has an intense smell of phenol and it is very common in central-south Italy. It is not harvested for commercial purposes, as not all consumers like it. It grows in symbiosis with beech, birch, oak and hazelnut trees. The harvest is from November to January. It is common in Europe.

 Terfezia or Tuvara de Arenas, it is a species growing in symbiosis with herbaceous plants, in sandy soils of the Mediterranean area. It has no smell, but it is however useful as it was used by ancient Romans in place of potatoes, at those times still unknown.

 Besides the above mentioned edible truffles, there are others which are not edible. Their edibility is not determined by possible noxious effects, they are hard truffles with unpleasing tastes and therefore considered unsuited for human nutrition, however they are very appreciated by animals. Among these truffle varieties are mentioned: Tuber Rufum, with a strong and nauseating smell and with a reddish color, it grows almost all year long in woods; Tuber Ferrugineum with a rust color and with a nauseating smell, it grows in woods; Tuber Foetidum with an extremely disgusting smell; Tuber Excavatum whose flesh consistency is hard, not very intense to the nose, of scarce value, frequently sold to unexperienced consumers and mixed to summer truffle.

 

Nutritional Qualities of Truffle

 The main components of truffle are proteins, fats, carbohydrates, water, mineral salts and ashes. Just like for edible mushrooms, the presence of 80-90% of water and of non digestible molecules by the human body, make truffle non interesting from a nutritional point of view. One hundred grams of truffle corresponds to about 30 Kcal. In the past years it has been produced the aroma of truffle by means of chemical synthesis. Despite this substance is noxious, it has the same aromas of truffle, so similar to the real one that a less experienced nose can hardly tell the difference. Moreover this substance has more stable characteristics than the natural one. The availability of this substance allows certain swindlers to buy African truffles - lacking of almost any smell - to which is being injected the artificial aroma by using a syringe, and therefore selling them at high prices.

 



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Aquavitae

Review of Grappa, Distillates and Brandy

 

Distillates are rated according to DiWineTaste's evaluation method. Please see score legend in the "Wines of the Month" section.



Brandy Stravecchio Monferrato 10 Anni, Magnoberta (Italy)
Brandy Stravecchio Monferrato 10 Anni
Magnoberta (Italy)
Raw matter: Malvasia, Grignolino and Barbera wines from Monferrato
Price: € 12.50 - 70cl Score: Wine that excels in its category
This brandy shows an intense amber yellow color, limpid and crystalline. The nose reveals intense, clean and pleasing aromas of vanilla, chocolate, caramel, cinchona, hazelnut, praline, tobacco and plum with almost imperceptible alcohol pungency. The mouth is intense with good correspondence to the nose, perceptible alcohol pungency which tends to dissolve rapidly, evident sweet hint, good roundness. The finish is persistent with flavors of licorice, hazelnut and plum. This brandy is aged for at least 10 years in cask and it is produced with the discontinuous distillation system. Alcohol 40%.



Grappa di Brachetto, Magnoberta (Italy)
Grappa di Brachetto
Magnoberta (Italy)
Raw matter: Pomace of Brachetto
Price: € 17.00 - 70cl Score: Wine that excels in its category
This Grappa is colorless, limpid and crystalline. The nose reveals intense, clean and pleasing aromas of grape, rose, strawberry, cherry, raspberry, pear, plum and hazelnut with almost imperceptible alcohol pungency. The mouth is intense with perceptible alcohol pungency which tends to dissolve rapidly, good correspondence to the nose, pleasing smoothness and good sweet hint, agreeable. The finish is persistent with flavors of strawberry, raspberry and pear. A well made grappa produced with discontinuous distillation at very low steam pressure. Alcohol 42%.



Grappa di Nebbiolo da Barolo, Casa Luparia (Italy)
Grappa di Nebbiolo da Barolo
Casa Luparia (Italy)
Raw matter: Pomace of Barolo's Nebbiolo
Price: € 17.50 - 50cl Score:
This grappa is colorless, limpid and crystalline. The nose denotes intense, clean and pleasing aromas of violet, plum, licorice, hazelnut, black cherry and rose with almost imperceptible alcohol pungency. The mouth is intense with perceptible alcohol pungency which tends to dissolve rapidly, good correspondence to the nose, agreeable and balanced sweet hint. The finish is persistent with flavors of black cherry, plum and licorice. A well made grappa produced with discontinuous distillation at very low steam pressure. Alcohol 42%.



Grappa Stravecchia, Casa Luparia (Italy)
Grappa Stravecchia
Casa Luparia (Italy)
Raw matter: Pomace of Barbera, Grignolino and Freisa
Price: € 17.50 - 50cl Score:
This grappa shows a brilliant golden yellow color, limpid and crystalline. The nose reveals intense, clean and pleasing aromas of licorice, vanilla, tobacco, honey, hazelnut, banana, plum, chocolate and black cherry with almost imperceptible alcohol pungency. The mouth is intense with good correspondence to the nose, perceptible alcohol pungency which tends to dissolve rapidly, pleasing smoothness, balanced sweet hint. The finish is persistent with flavors of licorice, hazelnut, honey and plum. A well made grappa produced with discontinuous distillation at very low steam pressure. It ages for more than 12 years in cask. Alcohol 42%.





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  Not Just Wine Issue 32, Summer 2005   
TruffleTruffle AquavitaeAquavitae Wine ParadeWine Parade  Contents 
Issue 31, June 2005 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 33, September 2005

Wine Parade


 

The best 15 wines according to DiWineTaste's readers. To express your best three wines send us an E-mail or fill in the form available at our WEB site.


Rank Wine, Producer
1 Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2002, Domaine Billaud-Simon (France)
2 Palazzo della Torre 2000, Allegrini (Italy)
3 Harmonium 2001, Firriato (Italy)
4 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Riparosso 2001, Illuminati (Italy)
5 Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile 1999, Maison Trimbach (France)
6 Jerez Fino Tio Pepe, Gonzalez Byass (Spain)
7 Edizione Cinque Autoctoni 2001, Farnese (Italy)
8 Aglianico del Vulture La Firma 2002, Cantine del Notaio (Italy)
9 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 1998, Santa Sofia (Italy)
10 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Villa Gemma 1999, Masciarelli (Italy)
11 Riesling Spätlese Nierstein Brudersberg 2003, Weingut Freiherr Heyl Herrnsheim (Germany)
12 Pinot Noir Napa 2002, Clos du Val (USA)
13 Trento Talento Brut Riserva Methius 1998, Dorigati (Italy)
14 Colli Orientali del Friuli Rosazzo Bianco Terre Alte 2002, Livio Felluga (Italy)
15 Moscato d'Asti 2003, Vignaioli di S. Stefano (Italy)

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