What is “Italian sounding”?

Not many Americans are familiar with the term “Italian sounding.” But increasingly, Italians are working to raise awareness of the growing problem of questionable labeling of food products and wines.

This week, Luca Ferraro posted the above photo on his Facebook. It’s the label of a wine produced in Australia called “col fondo.” It’s an example of an “Italian sounding” product that wasn’t produced in Italy. As Prosecco and Prosecco Col Fondo have become more and more popular, so have Italian sounding versions of Prosecco that are produced beyond the Prosecco DOCG and Prosecco DOC.

According to the New York Times, Italian sounding products are “those misleadingly labeled as being of Italian provenance, but actually produced elsewhere — which each year amount to about 60 billion euros, or $66.13 billion, in missed earnings for Italy.”

The most well known of these is arguably “Parmesan” cheese. If you live in the U.S, you have surely seen cheeses labeled as such even though they are not produced in Parma or in Italy.

Historically, the Americans have been among the most aggressive in producing wines that “sound” Italian. “Chianti” and “Brunello” are still regularly produced in the U.S.

And in Australia, where large numbers of vineyards have been planted to Glera over the last decade, there are more and more Italian sounding — or should we say, “Prosecco sounding” — wines being offered to consumers.

In an inquiry sent to the European Parliament last year by an Italian political activist, “The success of many international agri-foods is based on the fact that their names sound Italian. The list of products concerned is a very long one and the earnings from what is essentially a fraudulent trading practice are enormous and equal to the losses suffered by Italian firms in the industry.”

Currently, “there are no clear rules to protect the agri-food sector, which is awash with products of this kind.”

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