One of the reasons we did a side trip to Alba in the Piemontese or Piedmont region of Northern Italy was to visit the Castello di Grinzane Cavour, a modest castle with fascinating food/wine history that is now home to the Ordine dei Cavalieri del Tartufo e dei Vini di Alba (Order of the Knights of Truffle and Wines of Alba). “It is a food and wine confraternity which sets out to preserve, protect and re-introduce local traditions, practices and customs. In its Charter, the purpose of the Order is declared as being ‘to promote and defend the authentic gastronomy, wines and all the marvellous, unmistakeable produce of the land of Alba and the Langhe’.”
For reasons I will bare in the next post, I felt it necessary to visit the home of the Knights of Truffle to better understand both the product, the region, the history and the whole food culture of the Piedmont region. It’s amazing to me that a dedicated group of people formed an association for the sole reason of preserving, promoting and enjoying the food and wine products of a particular region. How I wish we have a version of this here at home for the preservation of heirloom kakanins, ingredients, dishes, etc.
The castle sits on a hill with spectacular 360 degree views towards the surrounding Piedmont region. Verdant hills, vineyards, patches of forest are all visible from every side of the castle.
It’s a fortification really, with the first two or three floors without windows (except those recently added) to ensure that unwanted visitors didn’t just clamber on up and into the bedrooms…
This particular hall is where some of the meetings of the Knights of Truffle are conducted, and it is where the annual charitable auction of white truffles is conducted for a worldwide audience of bidders. On some years, a nearly 1 kilo truffle can yield a stunning Euro200,000++ in bids, all proceeds going to a selected charity. White truffles normally retail for Euro3,500 or so per kilo, but that’s for smaller nuggets of fungus…
The ceiling of exposed wooden beams and flooring were incredible, probably dating back several hundreds of years. It wasn’t the most appealing set of rooms, but who am I to quibble when it comes to one castle vs. another?! The stairwells were incredibly narrow as well.
The castle had a wonderful courtyard where you could get some sun if it was not safe to head outside the castle walls… Today it is the setting for a little cafe, there is a cellar nearby, and a wonderful store that carries wines from all over the region.
The man of the castle.
The selection of regional wines in their enoteca is impressive. If we weren’t headed to Rome on a puddle-jumper with 20K luggage allowance, I would have been tempted to buy a grocery cart worth of goodies in this place…
…wine along with nuts, torrone, pastas, sauces, pastes, etc.
And the “selection” of wines made by the Knights themselves… :)
See this link for more on the Knights of Truffle & Wine of Alba.