Truffles – The Diamond Of The Kitchen Demystified

“Whosoever Says Truffle, Utters A Grand Word, Which Awakens Erotic And Gastronomic Ideas” – Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

A truffle is the fruiting body of a subterranean Ascomycete fungus, predominantly one of the many species of the genus Tuber. Truffles are ectomycorrhizal fungi and are therefore usually found in close association with tree roots. Spore dispersal is accomplished through fungivores, animals that eat fungi

Some of the truffle species are highly prized as food. French gourmet Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin called truffles “the diamond of the kitchen”. Edible truffles are held in high esteem in French, Croatian, Georgian, Bulgarian, Greek, Italian, Middle Eastern, and Spanish cuisine, as well as in international haute cuisine

In April 2016, a 4.16 pound white truffle—the so-called “World’s Largest”—sold at a Sotheby’s auction for $61,250 to a phone bidder in China. It was actually a bargain price for the over-sized fungus. Last year’s large crop, a result of abundant rain in Italy, has seen wholesale prices drop by 50 percent from two years ago

Urbani Truffles, First started in Italy in 1852,  now sells to 68 different countries. Urbani’s white truffles, which are rarer and more expensive than the black truffle, still come from Italy

CEO Vittorio Giordano/Urbani Truffles: “Truffle is a wild product, it is a natural product. It is not something you can cultivate or control,” Giordano explains. This unpredictability contributes to the extreme prices truffles can fetch. People have tried for generations, to no avail, to farm truffles. And while recent attempts in the U.S. and Australia to recreate truffle-conducive habitats by planting chestnut, oak, and hazelnut trees have shown modest success, the crop has been insubstantial and rarely are full truffles salvageable

Urbani works with a network of 18,000 people to hunt for truffles around Italy. “A single truffle hunter with a dog can find a small amount—two ounces, three ounces, quarter of a pound—so we need a lot of people to make sure we are able to collect quantity we need,” he says. All those employees only drive the price up further

CEO Vittorio Giordano/Urbani Truffles: “Pigs eat truffles. They don’t want to give the product back,” Giordano says. So, dogs were trained to put their noses to use for the cause and all they ask in return is a treat from their handler. (In fact, use of the pig to hunt truffles has been prohibited since 1985 because they damage the truffle beds in their zeal to get to the scent.)

“The truffle we deliver to the restaurants and distributors, less than 36 hours before were underground in Italy,” Giordano says. And the cost to make that happen adds up. Black truffles, the more common variety, currently cost about $95 per ounce while white truffles top the charts at $168 per ounce

October marks the start of white-truffle season, the time of year when the rare mushrooms are showered on dishes, signifying luxury to even the most jaded palates. One of Daniel Boulud’s favorite stories involves Puff Daddy, as he was known at the time, urging the chef to “shave that bitch” onto his food

Truffles are rare. The white ones are only available a couple of months of the year, almost exclusively from one part of Italy, where they must be foraged by special pigs, and there are fewer of them, and of lesser quality, every year. They are, in short, the perfect luxury commodity, precious and getting more so all the time

White truffles have a unique aroma, a combination of newly plowed soil, fall rain, and burrowing earthworms. The global appetite for white truffles, especially the ones from around Alba, Italy, has utterly outstripped the harvest. From Macau to Dubai to Chicago, there are never enough to go around

While the inferior black or Périgord truffle can be cultivated, right now there is no other way to get white ones except to set pigs (and, in recent years, dogs) loose on the hills of the Italian piedmont, snorting with pleasure and excitement at the thought of finding precious fungi that their owners won’t allow them to eat. You can buy a Louis Vuitton purse at an outlet mall and an Aston Martin on eBay. But you can’t get truffles without major trouble

Key chemical compounds intrinsic to the aroma of truffles have been isolated and are sold as truffle oil, a substance so stinky you can smell it from a mile away. Black truffles are in mass production in China and are supposedly getting better all the time.

Ancient Romans believed that the truffle was created when lightning struck damp earth. Today, we know that the small tuber grows underground in the wild forests of northern and central Italy. Even so, modern Italians – and Eatalians – maintain the magic of the truffle, referring to the earthy and aromatic ingredient as “a fairy apple,” “a diamond of the kitchen,” and “the gem of poor lands.”

There are three varieties of truffle. The white variety is pungent with notes of shallot, the black is earthy and robust, and burgundy tends toward the delicate and aromatic

Truffles cannot be planted or tamed, so each variety is only available a few months out of the year. These fragrant fungi taste best fresh, so plan to enjoy white and burgundy truffles from September to December, winter black truffles from December to early March, bianchetti truffles in February and March, and summer black and white truffles from May to August






The World’s Greatest Chocolate

La manufacture de chocolat Alain Ducasse in paris is where legendary chocolate is born. The king of French fine dining has opened the first bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturing facility in Paris in an elegantly redone auto body shop. A second shop is now open in Saint-Germain at 26 rue Saint-Benoit

At Le manufacture de chocolat, they roast and grind beans in 150 to 200kg (330 to 440 pounds) batches at a time in their small machine, most of them modified as they go along, to make them do what they do properly for such small batches of chocolate

Master Chocolatier and Ducasse’s Partner Nicolas Berger starts by using a coffee roaster to roast the cacao, which stirs the beans for about thirty minutes. The beans will then be crushed, winnowed, and conched and put into an enrober. As the chocolates come out of the enrober, each is individually scanned and finished

At La manufacture de chocolat they produce single origin chocolate (yes, just like coffee) as well as a dark milk chocolate made with beans from Java. The chocolate from Ecuador, which is organic, has a dry snap to it (because it’s high-percentage chocolate, with 75% cacao content) with an intense flavor. The Peruvian chocolate has a wine like flavour, a mild astringency, and incredibly boldness. A coffee-flavored chocolate is also made by grinding Ethiopian coffee and cocoa beans together into a dark slab. And….they also have a peanut praline as well as a caramel mousse enrobed in chocolate

They plan to produce a variety of chocolates and bonbons seasoned with spicy piment d’Espelette (Basque dried red pepper), pine nuts, prunes marinated in Armagnac, passion fruit-coconut, and lime. Slabs of baking chocolate will also be sold by the kilo

Le chocolat Alain Ducasse
40, rue de la Roquette (11th)

Métro: Bastille
Tél: 01 48 05 82 86



Opus One – A Collectible That Will Yield 10% Per Year


The Opus One 2014 Vintage is out and Merchants in the US as well as the UK have reported strong sales. This legendary Californian blockbuster wine celebrated its first harvest in 1991, a joint venture between the Rothschilds and Robert Mondavi, who created a “space age” structure designed by architects Fain & Pereira, a concept that was the first of its kind in California. The building literally rises out of the earth, and through a mix of classical European and contemporary Californian elements, gradually discloses its distinctive beauty

The Opus One 2013 vintage was rated 97+ by the esteemed Robert M Parker Jr: “Velvety textured, without a had edge to be found, notes of crème de cassis, blueberry, subtle wood and floral notes gently rise from the wine’s dense purple color. Beautifully full-bodied and extraordinarily elegant and pure, this is certainly one of their great achievements over the last 37 years. The wine has an exquisite finish and can be drunk now or cellared for 25-30 years.”

Investors should note that the 2013 Opus One is so far the highest rated by Robert Parker (The 2014 has not been rated yet) and this is a wine that can be kept for up to 30 years, giving us an excellent opportunity to yield attractive liquid investment returns. It is predominantly a blend of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 6% Merlot, and the rest Petit Verdot and Malbec. In 2013 the vintage score was 98. It is incredibly hard to find a higher vintage score than that (Pessac Léognan in 2010 is the only 99 that springs to mind), and you would expect the better producers to take full advantage.

We would like to bring to the attention of Investors the Opus One 2010 vintage. The wine appreciated close to 20 percent to £2,300 and extended its price rally to £3,000 and currently trades for around £2,800

Opus One produces some 25,000 cases per year. This is not the stuff of scarcity. Not many Super Seconds produce as much as that, with many of the top names considerably less. So as the picture evolves we see a winery with impeccable credentials performing slightly below par, if that is not being hyper-critical

Peak Prosperity Consulting Presents Oenophile: The Investment Grade Wine Fund. Aim: 5%-10% Per Annum. Provenance & Auction: London. Details:


Masseto 2014: We See An Upside Of 5% Per Year


The Cult Wine Masseto 2014 has just been released and we see it yielding 5 percent per annum. The release price was at £4,200 for a case of 12 bottles. The two non Bordeaux cult wines leading the investment grade pack so far are Masseto and Opus One

According to trading data on the Liv-ex platform, every Masseto vintage for the last decade has increased in price in the past 12 months. But, going further back, there has been a small decline for the highly rated 2006 and 2001 vintages in the past six months

Monica Larner/The Wine Advocate: “The 2014 Masseto has developed beautifully over the past few years of its oak and bottle evolution. This is a very distinctive edition of the iconic Italian Merlot that delivers a silky and streamlined approach. As bold and opulent as Masseto is in the warm vintages, I personally find those wines difficult to finish because the extract, concentration and intensity are so over the top. The best vintages of Masseto usually overpower any food dish you put before them. This is a subdued and downplayed expression instead. The cool summer season has shaped fresh berry notes of wild blackberry and cassis with drying mineral, tobacco, licorice and tar. There is evident sweetness here in terms of the wine’s fruit flavors and its tannins, but there also is a cooling vein of acidity that makes the difference. The alcohol feels integrated and light. If you are hankering for a less massive and less muscular Masseto, this vintage is for you.” 94 Points. Drink Date: 2019-2035

Monica Larner/The Wine Advocate: “The 2013 Masseto paints a glorious picture of Tuscany. It captures an inspired moment in time and walks an impressive tightrope between power and elegance. In my preview tasting last year, I noticed the firm textural richness of the 2013 vintage and the crystalline sharpness of its aromas. Thanks to 12 additional months of bottle aging, that impression is evermore constant and concrete. The focus is there, yet the wine has also fleshed out and put on more velvety definition especially in terms of mouthfeel. It wears its pedigree with pride, but most importantly it offers the balance and integration to promise a long and healthy aging future. The 2013 vintage follows closely on the heels of the impeccable 2006 and 2010 vintages in terms of cellaring potential. This is definitely a bottle that should interest collectors.” 97 Points. Drink Date: 2018-2045

Terroir – Masseto Centrale: “Masseto Centrale, the central area of the vineyard, has the highest percentage of Pliocene clays. This terroir’s “signature “constitutes the most impressive section of the vineyard giving Masseto its very soul and backbone. It yields powerful and concentrated wines with imposing tannic structures.”

Vineyard: Where the Masseto vineyard now stands, there was once a coastal marsh, over which clayey deposits formed over the centuries, interlaying with “marine“ invasions that increased the salinity of the substrate. Indeed, in the epochs that followed, the clays were overlain by thick deposits derived from the erosion of the hills, which were then mountains, and in some cases volcanoes. These deposits comprised gravels, sands, and various kinds of clays and rock fragments. Shocks of the most violent kind known, earthquakes, folded the layers in the ground, and one of these folds uplifted the Pliocene clays, bringing them to the surface

Masseto Hill: Among the first people to realize the potential of the great terroir of the Masseto hill was the great Russian- American enologist, Andrè Thcelicheff, a man of great experience who contributed to the conception of Masseto in the early 1980s. Andrè Thcelicheff was a visionaire, combining knowledge and inspiration. He loved Merlot and immediately felt that Masseto Hill would, thanks to its characteristic terroir and unusual climate conditions, be a dream place for Merlot to express its beauty. Following his precious advise, the team at Masseto planted the vineyard and committed themselves to make, over the years, the dream come true

The mineral structure of the clays on the Masseto hill allows them to absorb and store at least their weight in water. A clayey terrain is therefore always cool. The ground must however be worked constantly, particularly in the summer, to obtain the ideal combination of factors the vines require: sun for the leaves, and water for the roots. Thus the grapes grow gradually, without stress, and with perfect ripening of the polyphenols under the best possible conditions

At the top of the Masseto hill, at an elevation of about 120 meters above sea level, the soils consist of loose clays and sand with many pebbles, which bless the wine with a marked elegance. This is the area definined as “Masseto Alto”. “Masseto Centrale” is the central part of the Masseto vineyard, which determines the soul and backbone of Masseto. With slopes of a 10% gradient, the high proportion of Pliocene clays defines the character of this terroir, providing power, concentration and tannic support, and therefore great character, structure and longevity. Finally, the lowermost rows grow on less clayey soils, giving the wine its breadth, softness, and generosity. This final area is called “Masseto Junior”. Within each of these three zones there are smaller areas that ripen differently and therefore require to be harvested at different times. Such a complex mosaic will naturally reflect in the wine by displaying great complexity and revealing multi-facet dimension

The layout of the vineyard rows is of vital importance. In the Masseto vineyard the rows are planted perpendicular to the direction of maximum slope in order to allow the water from the summer rains to penetrate slowly into the soil, rather than run off violently. The vines are pruned according to the monolateral cordon spur system, with the number of buds and yield varying considerably according to the vigor of the individual vines. Their development is further supported by the field hands, who prune 5-10% of the production to help the vines reach their optimum equilibrium

Peak Prosperity Consulting Presents Oenophile: The Investment Grade Wine FundAim: 5%-10% Per Annum. Provenance & Auction: London.