Where Truffles And Wine Reign
Lana Bortolot Contributor Spirits
With a royal lineage, Italy’s Piedmont region is a delicious backdrop for fine dining and drin-king.
I’ve had Italy’s northwestern region of Piedmont on my mind since recently writing about “The Truffle Hunters,” this month’s charming movie about getting down and dirty in the Italian forest with elderly foragers and their adorable dogs.
Though the region borders Switzerland and France, it keeps a distinct Italian personality, which is not always the case in other border regions of northern Italy. Alto-Adige, for example, is an Italian and Austrian melting pot, and Treviso whose port of Trieste, is the cross-cultural gateway to Central Europe, shares attributes with Slovenia and Croatia.
But Piedmont is not only firmly Italian but of Italian terra firma, with its rich gastronomy deeply rooted to the land. It boasts 341 distinct food products typical of the region, from cheeses such as Toma, Robiola or the ancient Castelmagno DOP to specific regional pastas (agnolotti, tajarin). And, of course, truffles, often called “edible gold,” and which importer Francesca Sparvoli of Done4NY calls “the diamonds of gastronomy.” Alba’s white truffles grow from October through December, underground near the roots of certain trees, rooted out by specially trained dogs. Cove-ted for their earthy, musky flavor and scent, when shaved over pasta or risotto or even eggs, they are transcendental.
And, they command skyrocketing prices. In 2016, a 4.16-pound truffle—reported to be the largest in the world—sold at a Sotheby’s auction for $61,250. Two years later, a set of white Alba tubers weighing not quite two pounds sold for more than 75,000 euros ($85,000+ then). In November 2020, a two-pound specimen sold for $121,000 in a virtual auction. This, mind you, during a pande-mic that closed fine-dining restaurants across the globe.
It is only fitting to pair Alba whites—the queen of all truffles—with Italy’s king of red grapes, Neb-biolo, the other pride of Piedmont. To be fair, all of Piedmont’s grapes have a noble lineage, and whether you choose the Nebbiolo-driven Barolo and Barbaresco or the lighter wines made from Barbera, Dolcetto grapes, you will be transported. Now, if only we can board a plane.
But looking ahead to that day, the Réva estate in Monforte d’Alba has a full suite of hospitality for enjoying the region’s riches. Branded as a wine spa, it offers tastings and tours, but also truffle hunts, elegant accommodations and Michelin-recognized dining. It is on my list to visit as soon as public-safety protocols permit.
Established in 2011, the winery is young by most standards, but makes wines with an old soul. Its sustainable farming includes hazelnuts, bees and 56 acres of vineyards in six areas of the Langhe: Roddino, Monforte d’Alba, Serralunga d’Alba, Novello, Barolo and Grinzane Cavour. Production is about 60,000 bottles of wines made from the red Dolcetto, Barbera and Nebbiolo grapes, and a single white blend made from Sauvignons Gris and Blanc. Their focus on terroir translates well in the bottle. Here are five of the reds on offer. Reserve your truffles now.
Take five: modern wines with a nod toward tradition from Réva in Monforte d’Alba, Italy.
Réva Dolcetto d’Alba DOC 2019. A modern style of wine with puckering freshness, sour cherry and strawberry, a little saline with some bacon and black pepper notes. Balanced, light-hearted; a solid choice. A tasteful match with bacon, BBQ or pork belly. $20
Réva Nebbiolo d’Alba DCO 2018. The nose of this garnet-colored wine jumped with violet and other florals and wild herbs. It was just as lively in the glass—juicy but edgy with dark cherry and black raspberry, smooth tannins. Drink alone or with charred salmon, as I did. $35
Réva Barbera d’Alba DOC Superiore 2018. This is a step up in structure and density of flavor with crunchy red fruits, some vanilla and oak spices from a year in the barrel with earthy notes. A mineral streak keeps it fresh, but this is a step toward a more serious journey. $33
Réva Barolo DOCG 2016. This wine is your upgrade to Premium Select on Delta (remember joc-keying for seats?). A blend of the cru vineyards, this herb- and rose-scented wine is surprisingly light on its feet—medium bodied and ripe fruited, with layers of warm spice from 24 months in oak. The 14.5% abv tips high, but evens out with a firm tannic structure and fruit concentration. Like the erudite broker in “The Truffle Hunters,” you could drink this with soft eggs presented with truffle shavings. But, patience will reward you if you sit on this for a couple of years. $58-62
Réva Barolo Cannubi 2016. You’ve arrived, in first class and in a big way. Everything about this wine is powerful from the brambling aroma elevated by eucalyptus to the concentrated dark fruit (black cherry and raspberry) driving this complex, layered wine. Underneath are dark taut tannins, dark baking spices. See a theme? All that power helps balance the 15% abv. Still a teenager, it could use some calming down. $200