In a previous episode I covered DOC and DOCG wines and explained that certain wines are protected and controlled for how they are made and named. In this episode instead I want to talk about DOP, which stands for Denominazione di Origine Protetta (literally “Protected Designation of Origin”).
These food items that boast this exclusive label, are grown, created and packaged adhering to strict guidelines. Balsamic vinegar is a great example of a food with a DOP label. Did you know the true balsamics, besides many other requirements, also have a special glass bottle shape that can only be used for the true DOP balsamic products?
Lots of foods from all over italy aim to have this status. Things like cheese (pecorino toscano DOP for example) or Pistacchio verde di bronte from Sicily, or even the delicious san marzano tomatoes from Campagna are all protected origin products.
So, how does the DOP label come to be? Well, the grower and producer must adhere to strict guidelines set forth by the Italian government. Let’s explore the example of the San Marzano tomatoes. These tomatoes must be a certain type of tomato, grown in a certain way, and in a specific geographical area. Once a grower has followed these guidelines, a special certifying entity of the Italian government will come and check and grant DOP label usage and status. Any deviation from this and they cannot call themselves San Marzano DOP and their status will be revoked. Site note, this is what my father in law does – but for wine – and they don’t mess around, they even do random checks and site visits to be sure everyone is following the rules!
Back to the DOP, Every single region in Italy has DOP products, some even more than one. If you’re an Italian food lover, a life goal for you could be to try at least one DOP product from each region of Italy. I know it’s one of mine and actually, a travel tip of mine: I search out DOP products when I am in a new place. It’s a great way to sample the speciality of the area and also really get a taste, literally, for the culture of the region.