The Chianti and Truffle Tour is Sensational
By Ari Kane, Photographs by Daniella Veras
The Chianti and Truffle Tour, run by the astute and charming Vittorio Del Bono Venezze, is one of the best tours we have ever been on.Â He picks you up in Florence and takes you to San Miniato to experience truffle hunting, followed by a great truffle lunch and capped off by a visit to a marvelous boutique winemaker for a wine course and tasting.
Truffles are a gift from the heavens.Â Just the thought of these magnificent mushrooms induces salivation in our truffle-addicted mouths. They are impossible to farm so they must be found in the wild. According to our hunter, ever year there are less truffle growing areas because they are contaminated by man. Once an area is ruined, it will not grow truffles again. The areas where truffles are found were such a secret, that even fathers would not tell their children until they were on their deathbeds. Â We were driven to San Miniato, a tiny 1,000 hectares city renowned for its truffles, and introduced to a very experienced truffle hunter, his wife and their cute hunting dogs.
There are a variety of truffles that grow seasonally. The famous Winter White truffle grows only from October through December. It is the most expensive truffle and can sell for $3,000 a pound some years! The â€œcheaperâ€ truffles are the summer black and spring white truffles that are much more affordable and still delectable.
Dogs are trained to hunt for a year and a half starting when they are puppies. These lucky puppies are given truffles in their milk. We wish our mothers had put truffles in our baby formula. While both male and female dogs can hunt, our guide claimed that females are superior.Â According to our guide, the males tend to get too distracted with a different type of huntâ€¦as in for a female partner.
Once you find a spot that produces truffles, it will produce truffles again but you are never sure when they will spring up.Â The hunter goes back to the same spots each time in the hopes of finding more.
Our hunt was fun, informative and picturesque, so make sure to bring a camera. The hunterâ€™s adorable dog named Nebia, is a hyperactive mixed breed with a prize-winning nose. She found a bunch of lil truffles during our hunt. A hunt only lasts for 3-4 hours(ours was under 2) because the dogâ€™s nose gets desensitized after that period. Below you can see a video of Nebia as she finds a truffle.
After the hunt we were treated to a fantastic lunch at the truffle hunterâ€™s house with truffles galore. We had some nice wine, bread, cheese and salumi with truffle oil, truffle balsamic vinegar, truffle honey, various truffle spreads and pasta with truffles. We also had some enrapturing chocolate truffles for dessert.
After lunch we proceeded to buy loads of truffle goodies to take home with us. Our favorites were the truffle honey, truffle salt, truffle balsamic and a very special, winter truffle cream. We were like kids in a candy store, grabbing everything we could off of the shelves with exuberant glee.
The second part of the journey took us to a villa in the breathtaking Chianti countryside.Â The villa is a boutique winery that produces only 8,000 bottles a year. The Villa is not open to the public so if you want in, you must go on the tour. The Chianti Classico bottles are from the Classico region that contain great soil and limestone. The Black Rooster seal indicates that it is authentic Chianti Classico from this blessed region.
A famous Italian artist who now produces two Chiantis and two Super Tuscans, as well as Vin Santo runs the Villa. The tour offers a great overview of the wine making process and how Chianti differs from the other wines of the world.Â The artist hand paints different frescoes on some of his bottles for a really special and uniquely gorgeous personal touch. We had to buy some of this amazing wine both for its taste and as a fine art piece.
After the tour Vittorio who is an expert and seasoned sommelier gave us a course on wine tasting. We sat at a beautiful table in the Villa and were poured generous amounts of the Villaâ€™s wines. Scrumptious bread, cheese and salumi were served as well.Â Our host explained that Italians wine is meant to be enjoyed with food, not on its own.Â The proper way to pair wine with food is to eat the food and swallow it to coat your mouth with the flavor and then drink the wine. The fat from the food lingering in your mouth will complement some of the wines. The artist served some of the best salumi we’ve had in Italy. The Pecorino he served was soft instead of the usual dry versions and was superb.
The course was fun, enlightening and tasty. The wine was absolutely spectacular. The historic villa was enchanting and had such a beautiful vibe flowing through it. We learned so much and had such a sensational time on this intimate tour. Â The combination of the exquisite truffles and magnificent wine make this tour a â€œMust-Doâ€ while in Florence