Since then, what I’ve found has been a great resource for Italian wines is Italian Wines for Dummies that I picked up from a discount bin a few years after its 2001 publication. Written by Master of Wine Mary Ewing-Mulligan and her husband Ed McCarthy. Well-written, as it is easy-to-read, concise and filled with insight and recommendations that I have found to be spot-on over the years. About traveling to the area they wrote:
“The region around Alba and Asti, where most of the great Piedmont wines are made, is one of the finest restaurant areas in Italy, if not the world. If you happen to visit between October and December, you’ll assure yourself ample shavings of the special treat of the region – pungent white truffles – on your pasta, soups, meat courses, and anything else you desire (we especially recommend them with egg dishes. But anytime of the year, the restaurants perform their magic for you.”
I found that the food was excellent when I went, robust, very flavorful and somewhat refined even for dishes of obviously peasant origin. Historically, there were a lot of peasants, since region was poor until just the last few decades, somewhat surprising given that it traffics in the luxury goods that are Barolo, Barbaresco and white truffles. I wasn’t there during truffle season where the precious white truffles (Tuber Magnatum Pico) are auctioned in Alba for a few weeks, drawing restaurants and food purveyors from around the world. A retail shop from the area is selling white truffles now for 3.29€ per gram, or $1,835 per pound. Quite a deal, as prices are about half of what they were last year, not that was shopping for them last year nor this year, either. Yet, at least.
Hopefully, a few shavings of truffles are on the agenda during this upcoming trip. The Dummies are right about truffles and eggs. I had them in Acqualagna, another truffle capital, a few years ago, and the combination was fantastic, even if the bianchetto truffles in season at the time are not nearly as prized as the white truffles of Alba and the Langhe.