Saturday, September 3, 2011

Italian Wine 101: Laws & Labels

Laws and Labels

Italy has been known for ages for the authentic goodness of produce from gardens and orchards and the unique qualities of foods, such as cheeses and meats, made by artisans following local traditions. A growing number of such foods has been officially protected under European Union regulations approved in 1992.

Two categories were created. The first, known by the initials DOP (for denominazione di origine protetta) applies to "agricultural and food products whose properties are essentially or exclusively derived from their geographical environment, inclusive of natural and human factors, and whose production, transformation and processing are effected in the place of origin." All phases of production must be carried out within a delimited geographical area.

The second category of IGP (for indicazione geografica protetta) applies to agricultural produce or foodstuffs whose qualities and properties or reputation are derived from their geographical origin and whose production and/or transformation and/or processing occur in the given geographical area." It is enough that just one phase of production takes place in the designated area.

By 2000, there were 72 DOP and 31 IGP products recognized, though more candidates abound in both categories. The 103 protected foods then included 30 cheeses, 20 types of olive oil, 18 meat-based products and two traditional balsamic vinegars. Yet the foods approved to date represent a fraction of the inventory of local products.

Italy has more culinary specialties than any other country. All of the nation's 20 regions recently presented lists of typical foods, arriving at a nationwide total of 2,171 specialties as candidates for eventual protection. The regional lists take in 376 types of cheeses, plus numerous olive oils, meat products, breads and pastas, as well as vegetables, fruit, grains, legumes, mushrooms and truffles, honey, herbs, spices, condiments and preserves, wine and fruit vinegars, pastries and sweets.

To become eligible for DOP or IGP status, foods must be grown or processed following rules formulated by producers and approved by the European Union. Norms and quality standards are enforced by national commissions. Labels of producers who comply are guaranteed for authenticity throughout the EU, though protected foods are also recognized in other countries.

Reading Labels

  1. Type of wine
  2. Wine appellation
  3. Additional denomination
  4. Vintage year
  5. Name of the wine
  6. Color of the wine
  7. Quantity in milliliters
  8. Alcohol content by volume
  9. Nation of origin (in our case it is obviously Italy)
  10. Bottling company's data
  11. Importer (this information is obviously missing from labels of Italian wines purchased in Italy).
sources: italianmade.com & italianwinelabels.com

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