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Our address just got a serious upgrade - Le Haut Repaire, Route des Truffiers.

Only the other day, I was making use of Google Maps to find some directions when I noticed something rather odd. The small lane that passes right through the middle of our truffle farm has recently been renamed. Before, it was simply known as ‘Repaire Nord’. Now, it is officially recognised as ‘Route des Truffiers’. We don’t know who proposed or indeed made this change but it is definitely a nod from the truffle gods to be recognised in this way. It would now seem official that our address is Truffly by name, not just Truffly by nature. At first, I was simply pleased by the new name and how fitting it was. Only, a while later did my mind think as to the reasons or possible future implications for the beginning of an officially recognised 'Route of the Truffle Growers' in the Périgord.


An aerial view of Black Diamond Truffle Trees with new roadname on show.

 

For many years, the road that runs through the village of Coubjours, 5 minutes from our house, has been adorned with signposts reading ‘Route de la Noix’ which translates as ‘The route of the Walnut’. This road meanders predominantly through the beautiful walnut orchards of the Dordogne. The nuts from these plantations are mostly given ‘A.O.P Noix du Perigord’ status which is a protected class of product that is only given to one other walnut producing region in France.



A.O.P stands for ‘Appellation d'Origine Protégée’. This is the strongest protection that can be afforded to a food. It is used to classify food with characteristics that are completely unique to a place or region. The criteria is based on the French concept of terroir (https://www.blackdiamondtruffletrees.com/terroir) which has no direct translation into English. Generally it relates to the specific certain geographical area, climate and know-how of the producer. The history of the AOC in France dates back to the early 1400s when the production of Roquefort was codified into French law. In 1919 the Law for the Protection of the Place of Origin was passed and has dictated on where a specific product must be made. For example, I am sure that you are aware that for a sparkling wine to be called Champagne, it must be made in the Champagne region. The AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) designation officially began in 1935 when the Comité National des appellations d’origine (CNAO) was started. At this point it must be made clear that the differences between AOC and AOP are almost non existent. AOC is French and AOP is European. So AOP also effectively ‘replaces’ AOC on a global scale as with Spain’s DOP and Italy’s DOCG, which I suspect many of you have seen on bottles of wine from these respective countries.


One of France's finest wines.


Almost everyone knows that the French love to eat. And, when they eat, quality is everything. And when it comes to quality, only ‘French’ will do. After living here for many years, we have always been amazed by how proud and passionate the French producers are. Across the country, these daring folk each lay claim to being the best in the world at what they do. Within each region, they argue over who is the best of the best in a manner similar to Italians arguing over recipes of the finest Ragu sauce. Passionate is a word that doesn't really do it justice. So, when a region believes strongly that their product is one of such quality that it deserves national and international recognition then the aim is to protect it so that it cannot be recreated anywhere in the world. After all, what use is a name if it doesn’t guarantee origin and authenticity as well as quality, knowledge and a signature product?


The famous chickens of Bresse.


Of course nuts and wine are just the tip the iceberg. There are a vast array of French produce proudly displaying A.O.P or A.O.C after their names. From cheeses rind-washed with brandy and famous Basque-region grown chilli peppers to the highest quality chickens reared like royalty and bottles of old vintage wine selling for nearly half a million euros a piece.



This, of course, got me onto thinking about Truffles and more importantly the Périgord Truffle, Tuber Melanosporum, the underground truffle treasure that is quite literally named after a region - its origin. If other products in France and beyond can obtain such a status then why not this one? Along with foie gras and oysters, the little black delicacies are one of the most prized in France. It would appear that I am not the only one thinking along these lines. As this truffle is becoming more and more popular, many new truffle growers are appearing, most of the time using the name ‘Périgord truffle’ even though they are harvested in different regions of the world. The “pope of the truffle”, Pierre Sourzat already explained in 2013: “The truffle follows the path of the vine, which has spread throughout the world. The French will have to be careful not to fall asleep. It is a product with a strong identity for us." This is how the ambition to have an appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) for Périgord truffles harvested in Dordogne appeared. As French production was not large enough to meet demand (150 tonnes produced for a demand of 2000 tonnes) the file was placed on hold. However, whenever a treasure is discovered, it is not long before the counterfeits are hot on its heals. The ever growing problem of ‘fake’ truffles entering the truffle market only further cements the need for an officially recognised product of origin and authenticity. For more information on the types of truffles around and some rather dubious truffle practices, see the following article:

 

Epoisses A.O.P. Imagine that covered in truffle shavings!


So, from this I deduce two very positive things. 1. Truffles are in huge demand, especially truffles from the Périgord and 2. Perhaps protected status for our Truffles is not far away. Who knows, with any luck, the ‘Route des Truffiers’ will be extended and the Black truffles of the Périgord will finally be given protected status demanding even higher prices for the finest quality and most authentic truffles. After all, this is its natural home and for years the reddish-brown limestone soils of this region have been well known for producing the most exquisite truffles in the world. I for one look forward to the day that the truffles of this region are finally recognised as the ‘crème de la crème’ of the mushroom world, or perhaps more fittingly, the ‘truffe de la truffe’.



This shows the Google return for 'Route des Truffiers, Coubjours. It just so happens that the little red pin is positioned at the end of our drive. Wonderful.





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