Home delivery, NFT, thematic tourism… The black truffle is making a revolution

The 2022 season of the “Périgord black truffle” ends with an unprecedented record. Bernard Planche, truffle grower from Groléjac, sold on the Internet [juste avant le déclenchement de l’invasion de l’Ukraine, NDLR] an exceptional tuber melanosporum of 1.265 kilos for the sum of 9000 euros. A precious mushroom marketed via NFT (“non-fungible token”) technology, a digital certificate generally reserved for works of art. A hell of a leap into the future, far from the winter farmers’ markets where farmers offer their finds – to be paid for in cash only – in small baskets religiously covered with a cloth.

The small world of authentic black truffles is changing, slowly but surely, with the arrival of neo-entrepreneurs determined to dust off the market. “We are still only about ten brands, but the idea is to create a modern business model for this luxury product, the demand for which is exploding”, explains Serge Desazars, founder of Baron de la Truffe in Ligré (Indre-et -Loire). This former international executive (Celine, Petit Bateau) started ten years ago – it takes seven to harvest his first “black diamonds” -, today exploiting 65 hectares of truffle fields. In season, from mid-December to early March, the brand offers excellent quality fresh truffles on the Internet. Count 50 euros minimum for a whole piece of 20 grams, delivered to your home in twenty-four hours.

Quality and freshness to stand out

A small revolution: “The only solution for new brands is to be at the top of quality”, underlines Didier Chabert, who is fighting the same battle at the other end of the country, in the Drôme Provençale. At home, at the Domaine de Cordis, the truffles are only “cavée” (exhumed thanks to the truffle dog)… when ordered. They never know the fridge, for maximum freshness.

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The new truffle actors insist on this point: the product is as subtle as it is fragile. Its aromas remain only five to seven days after harvest. In addition, its “breeding” is very random, hence its intrinsic rarity. A frost of -9° in Périgord, this month of January 2022, was enough to shorten the season by fifteen days, i.e. only eight weeks instead of ten. And so much less turnover.

The “unfair” competition of the Spanish truffle

This speech is also intended to distinguish itself from the competition. In particular from Spain, where hundreds of hectares of truffle plantations have been planted in recent years and are flooding the French market with “melano”, weighing down prices: “It’s a war we have already lost – the Spaniards produced around 130 tonnes in 2022, while the whole of French production is 30 tonnes”, says a truffle grower insisting on intensive cultivation (“well watered with glyphosate”) of rigor beyond the Pyrenees. One of the reasons why most of our new brands practice organic farming.

The other competitor: canners, whose practices, according to exegetes, keep consumers away from the true taste of the authentic black truffle: “Many use artificial flavorings, which completely denature the product, or else they mix them with summer truffles [NDLR : une truffe précoce beaucoup moins savoureuse, cavée en juillet]“, denounces Didier Chabert.

Among the avenues for the future, “truffle tourism”. This is the major project set up in Savignac-les-Eglises, in the Dordogne, by the entrepreneur Henri Parent (Château Le Gay, in Pomerol), creator of the Domaine du Grand Merlhiot, the most ambitious local truffle estate. Guest rooms were opened there this winter to introduce visitors to the joys of truffle art.

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Didier Chabert pursues the same objective in his Cordis educational farm. At the start of the school year, it will launch “truffle brunches” on Sunday mornings. Baron de la truffe offers guided tours of the estate in Segways, with tasting of truffled butter and Chinon wines. The Chinonais is also buzzing with the arrival of new investors in the region, two truffle lovers with well-known surnames and whose first excavations should start at Christmas 2022: the brothers Olivier and Martin Bouygues!



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Home delivery, NFT, thematic tourism… The black truffle is making a revolution

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