That was the year, that was

I’ve just sent our final truffle newsletter for the year. Here’s what I had to say…

It’s been an amazing year for us, with truffles produced in every month from January to November, the production of our first olive oil, and a good grape harvest.

Truffle season finally over: We drew the curtains on the truffle season on November 11th. Rosie had just found a very nice haul of 891 g of assorted Burgundy truffles (in about 5 minutes), but the aroma of the best was not very intense so – aside from a few nice ones that made their way to Roots in Lyttleton for their first birthday celebrations – we have decided to leave all the remaining truffles (and there are quite a few) in the ground until the New Year. If this year is anything to go by, then we should have good ripe Tuber aestivum/uncinatum available from late January onwards.

Rosie with a 250g

We’ve been on a steep learning curve with our Burgundy truffles. As the only commercial producers in New Zealand, we’ve been picking things up as we go, talking to contacts overseas and in the science community to try to build our understanding of how these beautiful truffles handle NZ conditions. In our little patch of trees, it appears that T aestivum/uncinatum fruits more or less continuously year round. Fully mature truffles – with intense aroma and hazelnut or latte coloured flesh – are produced between January and July. From August to October/November truffles develop aroma, which can be quite strong, but don’t seem to develop mature flesh. We’ve been describing these as “spring ripe” truffles, and selling the best for $500/kg (half price – a bargain!). Handled properly, they produce excellent truffled scrambled eggs.

We’ve also been amazed by the productivity of our Burgundy plantation. It’s only 13 trees, but has produced over 8kg of truffles. You will not be surprised to learn that we are planning to extend our plantings of aestivum/uncinatum and bianchetto-infected trees. I think that both species have a great future in New Zealand, bringing very good potential financial returns to growers and a wonderful high quality truffle experience to the nation’s fine dining restaurants.

Bianchetto & Perigord black truffles: We’re well into the early summer work in these truffieres – trimming growth, mowing, weeding and repairing irrigation. We expect the 2014 bianchetto season to begin in May/June, and the Perigord black in June/July.

Truffle tours: We’re already taking bookings for truffle hunts next year. We should be able to show you a truffle in the ground in any month of the year, but for the full experience and the opportunity to take some truffle home for dinner, it’s best to come during the peak season – May to September.

To make a booking for a tour, contact Gareth. Cost is $75 for a 45 minute tour (max 6 people), but you get to keep the first $50 worth of truffle found (if any). Guests staying with us at The Shearer’s Cottage can have a complimentary truffle hunt or truffiere tour. We’re also very happy to arrange truffle masterclasses/tastings/demonstrations. Contact Gareth to discuss the options…

The Hermit Ram Limestone Hills 2012 Pinot Noir:

Hermit 1Our 2012 pinot noir – lovingly hand-made by winemaker Theo Coles, and marketed under his Hermit Ram label – is now available from Decant in Christchurch. This is what they had to say about it:

Sometimes a wine can excite right from the get-go, and this new label from Waipara is (in my eyes anyway) one of those. Pinot Noir grown in the Limestone Hills, inland Waipara, (next to the truffiere) this is what we would describe in our understated way as ‘rather good’. Close planted, late picked and put in 300 litre hogsheads with everything from planting to bottling being done by hand.

The wine will also be available in Australia from Whole Bunch Wines. For further information and wholesale availability, contact Theo direct:

Thanks very much for following our doings this year. Have a great summer/winter or whatever it is where you are, don’t eat too much over the festive season, and enjoy a good time (with fine food and great wine) with your family and friends.