It is a testament to the brilliant epicurean madness of the Italians that they would enshrine in law the characteristics of pig fat. Not just any old pig fat, of course, only Lardo di Colonnata IGP, as white as the marble from the quarries of neighbouring Carrara. That marble is used to make the containers the lardo is cured and aged in, which makes it a kind of double IGP. Though, interestingly, while the lardo must be made in that part of Tuscany, apparently the pigs can be from pretty much anywhere north of Naples. Presumably the hills that make Carrara marble do not make very good pig pens, or the lardo from Colonnata would be DOP. Still, it’s a great example of how the Italians are adept at marketing taste of place.
At a trade show of Tuscan products in Toronto late last year I found myself in front of the importer Stefano Simeoni who was cutting thin ribbons of Lardo di Colonnata from a branded producer Larderia Fausto Guadagni. (Oh man, how fun would it be to be able to say, “I work at the local larderia”?) I stayed there for a while, while most of the attendees sampled geographically protected red wines or Pecorino cheese. Their loss was my gain, and if I could have found a glass of simple Trebbiano to wash down the silky sheets of herbally seasoned fat, I might have stayed even longer.
The larderia, and the dairies and wineries at the show were on push for sales in Canada in the wake of the Canada-European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, a.k.a. CETA. ‘Agri-food’ exports are an important feature of the Italian economy, and the Canadian market is (I think) their seventh largest, we spend roughly twice per capita on Italian foods than our American neighbours. A prominent feature of the marketing of Italian foods, are the geographic indications, like IGP or DOC/DOP. This follows the historical example of the Bordelais, who quickly figured out that marketing terroir was the best way to put forward a unique selling proposition. It’s worked for them since the classification of Bordeaux vineyards in 1855 and its working for the larderie of Colonnata today. When, I wonder, will more of our producers start guaranteeing quality and taste of place too?