When Tim Terry harvested Australia’s first black truffle from his farm in Tasmania in 1999, he knew he was onto something special.
Fast forward to 2021 and Australia is the fourth largest truffle producer in the world with an entire calendar of events dedicated to celebrating each Australian truffle season.
The cool climate, pure water and fertile soil of Terry’s Deloraine property at the foothills of Tasmania’s Great Western Tiers provides the perfect growing conditions for the finest black truffles. Long lunches, hunts and a range of truffle-based products are just a few of the offerings at the country’s first ever truffle farm, but you don’t need to travel across the Bass Strait to get involved in the action this season.
The dirt on Australian truffles
Australia’s truffle growing game is centred around two varieties – French black and Perigord. Western Australia’s Manjimup region produces the majority of Australia’s Perigord truffles (80-90 per cent!) but there are now more than 300 farms scattered across the country. With so many producers jumping on the truffle train, Australia’s production is estimated to be between 12 to 12.5 tonnes per year.
Extremes on both ends of the temperature gauge provide optimal growing conditions for this rare fungi, which explains why they thrive in WA. Truffle farmers in many parts of Tasmania, NSW and Victoria have also had some success but their focus has shifted towards agri-tourism and education.
Cost of truffles in Australia
Prices vary each year depending on availability, demand and quality of the season but the going rate for this year’s harvest is $2.50 per gram. Keeping in mind, most retailers have a 20 gram minimum and many recipes call for up to 10 grams per person, you’re looking at $50 a pop for dinner for two. If you’re cooking for a crowd, you better be ready to splash some serious cash.
“Why are truffles so expensive,” you ask? This comes down to a few factors. Firstly, they’re very difficult to find. Detection dogs must be expertly trained in order to pick up the intense aroma emitted by the truffle when it’s ready to be harvested. They take a long time to grow: inoculated trees often take 4-7 years to produce a harvestable truffle, and maximum yield is only reached after 12 years. There’s also a lot of hype around the black truffle. It carries a level of prestige and, therefore, people are willing to drop bulk cash on them. But for die-hard fans of this delectable fungi, it’s worth every cent.
Truffle hunting tours and experiences
With the Australian truffle season nearly underway, we thought we’d share some of the exciting events, festival, tours and dining experiences happening around the country.
Viva La Truffle, Berrima NSW
Hosted at Brigid Kennedy’s stunning Berrima property, The Loch, Viva La Truffle will bring together some of the region’s finest truffle producers and chefs for a weekend of exquisite food and wine. The two-day fair allows visitors to meet the growers, purchase truffles, attend celebrity chef workshops and indulge in a truffle-inspired meal, washed down with local wine. The event will be held over the 7th-8th of August, and if you want to make a weekend of it, book a stay in one of the luxurious guest rooms at The Loch.
Hunting for Australian truffles at Red Hill Truffles, Mornington Peninsula VIC
Situated on the same stunning property that has been in the family since 1864, Red Hill Truffles is hosting a series of truffle hunts and dining experiences throughout the season. Join the super sniffer dog Thomas on a hunt for Perigord back truffles and choose to indulge in a truffle-inspired brunch, two-course lunch or eight-course degustation.
Small group truffle hunts at Truffle Paddock, Grantville VIC
Surrounded by ancient indigenous trees and thriving native wildlife, Truffle Paddock is one of the few Australian truffières to produce both the French black winter truffle and the small Italian white bianchetto truffle. Visitors to the farm will be greeted by Truffle Melbourne founder Nigel Wood with a warming coffee and a truffle-y treat before setting off in search of those elusive black and white diamonds. Let the expert truffle dogs ‘Forrest’ and ‘Comet’ lead the way, and wrap up the adventure with a glass of Champagne and a delicious truffle-inspired meal.
Truffle hunting at Robertson Truffle Farm, Southern Highlands NSW
Two hours south of Sydney, Robertson Truffles will be hosting hands-on truffles tours throughout the season. The stunning Southern Highlands provide the backdrop for an exciting 2-hour adventure where chances are, you’re going to get a little dirty! Robertson Truffle Farm was one of the first in Australia to begin producing the Black Perigord truffle so you know they’ve got a knack for it. If you’re keen to purchase some truffle products while you’re there (or online), retail sales begin from July onward.
Truffle hunts and gourmet lunch with Experience Nature, Marulan NSW
A delectable lunch awaits those who make it through the exciting truffle hunt in Greenwich Park near Goulburn. Traipse among the oak trees with the truffle dogs as your guides in search of black Perigord truffles before settling in for a three-course lunch. Expect lunch to include dishes like the truffle infused butternut pumpkin soup, truffle chicken en Papillote and a white chocolate brownie with truffle infused drizzle. Four carefully selected wines will help you wash everything down. Tours take place every Saturday from June 26th to August 7th.
Truffle hunts at Macenmist, Bredbo NSW
Just an hour’s drive from Canberra, nestled along the Cappanana River, Macenmist specialise in two things: black truffles and wine. A winning combination in our eyes! Macenmist offers truffle hunts with your choice of breakfast or lunch, as well as family-friendly hunts where the kids can get stuck into the fun. During Truffle season (June to September), the farmgate is open from 11am-4pm everyday.
Truffle festivals around Australia
The Truffle Festival Canberra, ACT
There are plenty of reasons to head to the capital in winter, but the annual truffle festival is up there with the best. The festival brings together growers in the Canberra regions, local chefs and purveyors of fine food to learn about and, of course, taste the illustrious truffle. From the beginning of June, truffle hunting begins! Visitors can tag along on a truffle hunt at one of the farms in the Canberra region, attend truffle workshops and cooking classes, and treat their taste buds at various restaurants, cafes and wineries in the area.
Looking for accommodation in the Canberra area? Have a browse at what’s on offer.
Truffle Melbourne Festival
This year, Melbourne is hosting not one but two weekends of truffling fun in Federation Square in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD – 21st-22nd August. The family-friendly festival encourages people to come along and learn about the humble truffle, give it a taste and perhaps even try it in their own cooking.
The festival has partnered with multiple venues around the city and inr regional Victoria to host a range of truffle hunts, feasts and experience. A few standouts are the truffle and wine-themed dinner at Tipico on June 24th and the Bomba Truffle Fiesta on July 25th.
Truffle hunts will also be hosted at various farms around the state including Truffle Paddock in Grantville, Gembrook Truffles in the Yarra Valley, Truffle Treasures in Central Victoria, and Red Hill Truffles on the Mornington Peninsula.
Book your Melbourne accommodation here.
Truffle Kerfuffle, Manjimup WA
Kick off the season in the truffle capital of Australia. Manjimup is located around 300 kilometres south of Perth where the rich soil and cool climate provide the perfect conditions for growing the bulk of Australia’s black truffles. This year’s festival will take place between the 25th-27th of June and entails a decadent weekend of food and wine experiences, truffles masterclasses, truffle hunts and markets. These chef’s table dinners and long lunches sell out super quickly, so book your seats ASAP. There are also plenty of truffle hunts being held over the weekend at three different farms across the region. Who knows? It might be you that uncovers a record-breaking truffle.
Restaurants dishing up Australian truffles
Taxi Kitchen, Melbourne CBD
Melbourne’s Transport Hotel is something of an institution, with three stand-out venues for food and wine lovers. For a top-tier dining experience that will satisfy all of the senses, Taxi Kitchen is a must. To celebrate the 2021 truffle season, Executive Head Chef Tony Twitchett has put together a five-course dinner, paired with outstanding Australian wines, of course. Locally-sourced produce will provide a tantalising platform for the Australian truffle to take centre stage.
Expect everything from black truffle cappuccinos and truffle-infused sourdough to jerusalem artichoke and grass-fed wagyu with black truffle butter. But the true highlight will be an appearance from the gorgeous and oh-so-clever truffle dogs themselves. Book your table for Wednesday 2nd June now!
Yulongfu, Melbourne CBD
Husband-and-wife team, Yong and Emily Liu head up the kitchen at this 130-seat Shanghainese style restaurant in the heart of Melbourne. The star item on the menu? Expertly hand pleated Xiaolongbao, inspired by recipes handed down through the family archives since 1904. These tender and flavoursome dumplings are best devoured with a slurp of piping hot soup. While truffles are in season, the team at Yulongfu will be serving their steamed black truffle Xiaolongbao with pork.
Yarra Valley Truffles + The High Tea Mistress, Yarra Valley VIC
The Yarra region’s premier truffle producer has partnered up with the High Tea Mistress to host a one-off event at their gorgeous property. Guests will be seated in their own private igloos overlooking the dam, truffière and valley, welcomed with a glass of local Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. A truffle inspired menu of eight delectable menu selections awaits!
Did we miss any exciting Australian truffle events happening near you? Let us know and we’ll add it to the round-up.
While we’re on the topic, read about one of our team’s truffle hunting experience in the Southern Highlands or indulge in one of our other foodie stories:
Lead image: © Frances Aldrijich