World's largest truffle sells for over $80,000 at auction

The world's largest white truffle (above) sold at auction Saturday for US$61,250 (S$81,000) - far less than the cool US$1 million its owner reportedly had hoped for. -- PHOTO: AFP
The world's largest white truffle (above) sold at auction Saturday for US$61,250 (S$81,000) - far less than the cool US$1 million its owner reportedly had hoped for. -- PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - Consider it a bargain: The world's largest white truffle sold at auction Saturday for US$61,250 (S$81,000) - far less than the cool US$1 million its owner reportedly had hoped for.

The White Alba's Truffle weighed 1.89 kilos when unearthed last week in the Umbrian region of Italy, making it by far the largest ever found.

Sotheby's said it was purchased by a gourmand from Taiwan, who had placed his winning bid by telephone.

Bidding started at US$50,000 for the record-breaking fungus.

It was owned by the Balestra Family of Sabatino Truffles, whose chief executive told the New Haven Register newspaper this week that he hoped it would fetch seven figures.

"I told everybody I wanted a million dollars," said Federico Balestra telling the newspaper that a Sabatino employee in Italy "was hunting truffles for us and found the truffle for us."

Balestra added that the massive fungus - slightly smaller than an American football - was large enough "to feed a party for 300-400 truffle dinners".

Long after the dinner plates are cleared away, the Balestra truffle was expected to enjoy immortality as an entry in next year's edition of the Guinness Book of World Records.

News reports said this new record holder was about twice the size of the previous champion.

Nevertheless, the dethroned white truffle fetched far more when it was sold in 2010 - some US$417,200, according to Sotheby's.

The auction house said the Balestra family plans to donate proceeds from the auction to a number of charitable organisations, including Citymeals-on-Wheels, a local group to feed the hungry, and the Children's Glaucoma Foundation.