Italian Food and Wine Classifications
What are all the Italian food and wine acronyms and classifications, what do they all mean and why do they matter anyhow? They are all part of how Italy protects its food and wine.
In Episode 12 Michele Di Pietro from @mangiawithmichele and I chatted about Italian food labeling acronyms that protect specialty Italian food and wine in the worldwide market. It’s all about defending these products from unfair international competition, but also ensuring that quality and uniformity are maintained throughout time.
The Italian (DOP, IGP, etc) Classification Debate
Alberto Grandi published a book in 2018 that puts into question Italy's food, beverage and recipe classification system. His book, Denominazione di Origine Inventata, puts forth the theory that many foods, and recipes, that Italy claims as its own, or claims are historical products and recipes, aren't in fact so. In this podcast episode, Alberto and I talk about this challenging issue and its implications.
Although his book is only available in Italian right now, it will be published in English at the end of 2023. In the meantime, have a listen to this fascinating episode:
Wines have their own classification system that rank the very best wines on down to some of the better Italian table wines. This is how the wine classification system works.
When you think about how Italy protects its food and wine two DOP products that you would readily recognize are balsamic vinegar and pecorino cheese.
Both of these food products have both IGP and DOP rankings, each governed by a different consortium. Whereas balsamic vinegar can only be found in a rather restricted area of the Emilia-Romagna region, pecorino cheese is made throughout Italy. One is Pecorino Romano, a hard, grate-able cheese from the Rome area of the Lazio region and here's one you will definitely enjoy.
Here's everything you need to know about balsamic vinegar. You might want to try this delicious DOP balsamic vinegar.
One of Italy's premiere wines is Brunello and it’s made using the Shiraz grape but only in the town of Montalcino in Tuscany, and the surrounding hills. A few of the Brunello wine makers are quite well-known but most are just like this one.
Lazio region protected products
When you think about how Italy protects its food and wine normally you think of DOP products as finished and packaged products that have undergone some transformation, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes the plant itself can have DOP recognition, like this Lazio white bean: faggiolo cannellino di Atina. It's delicious in many dishes but especially in this White Beans Tomato & Rosemary Soup.
One of the most delightful products from Lazio that I use all the time to make ravioli and desserts is Ricotta Romana. The milk used plus where the animals come from, along with exactly how this cheese is made and processed determines its DOP status.
There are many wonderful extra virgin olive oils throughout Italy with DOP status and the Lazio region has three of these oils. The very first extra-virgin olive oil to obtain DOP status in Italy was the Sabine extra-virgin olive oil.
Although products with IGP and DOP status are limited – Lazio has about a dozen of each of these - products with PAT status are much more numerous. Lazio has around 400 products with PAT status.
PAT status also pertains to recipes
Whereas DOP and IGP status is determined by the consortium and the Italian government along with the European Union, products with PAT status are determined in Italy. PAT status – Agro-alimentary Typical Products – doesn't include wines, but can include other beverages and liqueurs, food products and even recipes. It's just another example of how Italy protects its food and wine.
An example of this is Spaghetti all'Amatriciana. This is a recipe that is beloved by many in Italy and abroad. Romans tend to modify the recipe from the original and add different ingredients like onions. I often do the same in my recipe:
The town of Amatrice wanted to preserve the original recipe that has been a mainstay of this town’s cuisine for well over a century. They were successful and now the recipe has PAT status. This recipe is truly unique because just last month it also obtained recognition from the European Union as the official recipe. That means that the recipe and its ingredients is codified and deposited within the Amatrice Chamber of Commerce documents.
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