08/07/2015 12:40 EDT | Updated 08/07/2016 05:59 EDT

The Perfect Couple: Wine and Truffles

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Black truffle being sliced

Perfect harmony is an elusive factor in most aspects of life. For an amateur like myself, finding the right wine to couple with a dish of fresh truffles can seem as daunting as trying to organize a marriage.

One pairing often recommended to North Americans when eating black truffles (Tuber melanosporum) is a Barolo wine from Piedimonte, Northern Italy. The black truffle or melanosporum is one of the few truffles that can endure being lightly cooked, which is a testimony to its enduring strong flavour, richness, and some say "masculinity." A red wine is always paired with this truffle. The wine must compliment the truffle's sophistication and echo the depth of flavour. The soft velvety quality of the wine must harmonize with the truffle sensation in the mouth. Simultaneously the wine's complexity of aroma must "marry" the intensity of the perfume of the black truffle in such a way as inclines the two distinctive perfumes, that of wine and truffle, to elegantly entwine and support each other like dancers showcasing the best of their respective charms.

How many couples are so perfectly matched? Indeed, is a Barolo from Northern Italy really the best partner? Possibly, but which one? There are different "schools" of approach for the Barolo; one is traditionalist, and the other responding to changes in palate is more contemporary, but either way they are expensive and for a novice like myself it seems to present too much margin for error.

Considering both wines and truffles alter in taste depending on the content of the soil where they grow, it would seem to make sense to choose wines that come from where the truffle is produced. Central Italy is the main area for black truffles in Italy. Indeed it is claimed that the Marche region was the first place of truffle cultivation in Italy, beginning in 1932, and then blossoming in the 1950s and 1960s due to Mannozzi Torini, a regional inspector belonging to the Corpo Forestrale dello Stato. Whatever the case, the Central Apennines represent a hub, or heartland, of truffle culture and truffle cultivation specializing in the black truffle (Tuber melanosporum).

In fact, I was relieved to learn this simple solution for pairing wines and truffles grown in the same area (as close to each other as possible) was advocated at a presentation of a unique guidebook to truffles. The book, 'Piceno, Terra di Tartufi' was inaugurated by the Unione Montana dei Sibillini in the mountain village of Comunanza, in the Marche region of the Central Apennines, Italy. Unfortunately it is available only in Italian. It includes scientific and technical facts, but unlike other books -- for the first time -- there are recipes beyond the ordinary, neither to be found on the internet nor in other books, and finally wine solutions as well!

The wines recommended for the black truffle are simply wines from this same soil: the DOC Rosso Piceno Superiore the historic wine of the territory, and a DOCG wine, the Offida Rosso. These are great, inexpensive wines that marry with simplicity and support the flavour of the black truffle.

While these wines are seldom available in Canada, a close cousin to the Piceno, one hour's drive away, is the Rosso Conero. I was overjoyed to find Canadians can buy this wine, and at a very reasonable price, considering what it costs here in Italy. For now we can whet our appetite on the San Lorenzo Rosso Conero by Umani Ronchi in anticipation of the truffle season...


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