When searching for an authentic product, it is important to know what you are looking for. Pretty bottles, fancy labels and presentation can sometimes fool. Thankfully, Europe has taken steps to ensure the authenticity and quality of nearly 200 products with two designations: the IGP and DOP. The two designations ensure the origin and exquisite quality of the products they include in slightly different ways.
The IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) or the "protected geografical information," is the slightly less strict of the two denominations which awards the IGP seal to products from specific regions of Europe. The IGP acronym guarantees a product originating from a region or a country whose quality, recipe and characteristics can be traced back to its geographical origin. At least one production and/or processing phase must take place in the designated origin of production for the product to qualify.
DOP (Denominazione d'Origine Protetta) or Protected Designation of Origin, like IGP, requires specific production and processing techniques for each product. However, unlike the IGP, for a product to qualify for the DOP, each step in the production of the products must be executed in the region of origin. The products have extremely strict specifications that must be met in each step of production which are then examined by experts to ensure quality.
Products such as Prosciutto di Parma, Prosciutto di Modena, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Aceto Balsamico di Modena are just a few of the products that carry the IGP or DOP.
How can you tell when a product is IGP or DOP? Look on the label or on the product itself. For example, on each wheel of Parmaggiano-Reggiano DOP information regarding the factory, who made the cheese, even which cow the milk came from can be found.
There is a difference between IGP Aceto Balsamico di Modena and DOP Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena. The first difference is that only the DOP product can carry the word Tradizionale, which ensures the consumer knows that its been made the traditional way. Remember that the IGP denomination requires that at least one of the production phases be completed in the official geographical area indicated while the DOP requires that all the phases of production be completed in the area, which means it the products carrying the DOP denomination will be more expensive (cannot import the grapes from less expensive areas, etc. etc.) They will be more expensive but also guarantee higher quality as the consortiums of the products carrying the DOP carry out regular and very strict inspections to ensure that all members of the Consortium adhere to the rules.