We’re deepest, greenest Tasmania driving a bright and beautiful Infiniti Q60 Red Sport through some of the finest foodie areas in all of Australia in a quest to meet our makers. We’ve already explored the infinite potential of one of Tassie’s newest whiskey distilleries in Launceston, and a snail farm, and now it’s time to sniff out something possibly even more expensive and exclusive - truffles.
Tamar Valley Truffles
Truffles are often referred to as the “diamonds of gastronomy”, but that might be doing them a disservice. After all, diamonds are easier to come by.
Just ask Marcus Jessup, who planted a cluster of oak trees, each grafted with French Perigord fungi, on his grandparents’ property near the Tamar River almost 20 years ago. And then they waited, fingers firmly crossed, hoping for the notoriously fickle fungi to take hold.
It took more than four years for Marcus to dig up his first truffle, and even then it was just the one; a single black golf ball that looked for all the world like a lump of coal to the untrained eye. You could almost imagine Scott Morrison bringing one into Parliament by mistake.
But their patience soon paid off. By the following year the haul had tripled, and then it tripled again. Four years later - eight long years after that first planting - the family had at last farmed a commercial quantity of ultra-rare black truffles.
Where so many have tried and failed, Tamar Valley Truffles has secured its place as one of Tasmania’s four largest producers; now growing between 400 and 600 kilograms of fine Perigord truffles every year, which are then exported to kitchens across Europe, Asia and the United States.
In a wonderfully Australian twist, Marcus doesn’t use pigs to hunt his truffles (as the French traditionally do, despite the fact that they can be so keen on getting to the prizes themselves that truffle farmers sometimes lose fingers in the process) - but rather his Kelpie, Dash, which he lovingly rewards with a game of fetch for each prize he unearths.
“It is harder to control pigs than a dog,” Marcus says. “You need a hyperactive dog. You can train most dogs how to hunt for truffles but a hyperactive dog of any breed is best so it has the stamina to hunt all day.”
Luckily, Dash prefers the taste of a well-chewed tennis ball to truffles.
Marcus, and our friends from the distillery and the snail farm, are but a snapshot of the many fine craftspeople playing the long game in Tasmania, having embraced a slow-food movement in which it can take years to see the fruits of their labours.
As we slip back behind the wheel of the our Q60, engine rumbling to life as the skies begin to darken outside our perfectly crafted cabin, we can't help but feel incredibly grateful that they have.
And possibly even more grateful for the opportunity to drive this sporty, effortless and embracing beast of a car on what are, inarguably, the best roads in all of Australia. The fact that there’s so little traffic down here certainly helps, but it’s the combination of perfect corners of all shapes and angles - a seemingly endless supply of them - with views of unspoiled nature that makes a Tasmanian driving adventure truly like no other. It’s no wonder that the road-rally event that is Targa Tasmania is one of world renown.
If you haven’t driven Tasmania, in an Infiniti, you really must. And be sure to call in and meet the makers when you do.