Prosciutto di San Daniele DOP is one of the excellences of “Made in Italy” in the gastronomic sector, known and valued worldwide, from France to USA, from Australia to Mexico. It is the result of a century-old tradition, its name is inevitably connected to its area of origin, the municipality of San Daniele del Friuli. Here the production has developed and thrived since pre-Roman times, and it continues today cementing an unbreakable relationship beteween product, territory, area of origin and unique microclimate. This last bond has been recognized and protected for the first time in legislation with the Act of 4th July 1970, n. 507, later repealed and replaced by the Act of 14th February 1990, n. 30. In 1996 the EU registered the product in the list of products with Protected Designation of Origin, appointing the homonymous area as the one and only production area.
At the root of this protection there aren’t only historical and political reasons, but also climatic and environmental ones. In addition to the careful selection of raw materials and a specific processing tecnique, remained virtually unchanged over the centuries, with its strict rules given in the Product Specification,
prosciutto di San Daniele DOP comes into life also thanks to the contribution of the singular microclimate of its area of origin. The unique and unrepeatable environmental conditions, can actually be found only in this geographical context. These special features help to impart the distinctive aroma of prosciutto and ensure the repeatability of its sensorial qualities, For this reason, the preparation steps, salting and maturing of the pork thighs can take place purely and simply in San Daniele.
The wind crossroads on San Daniele
The typical microclimate of this territory results from the interaction of some aspects. San Daniele lies in the heart of Friuli Venezia Giulia, in the valley of the Tagliamento river, halfway between the Carnic Prealps and the Adriatic sea. It develops on 35 square meters on the slopes and at the bottom of a moraine hill. The hamlet is 252 metres above sea level, in an area where the warm salty breezes, which from the coast go up theTagliamento river and gradually cool down, merge with the cold winds from ther North-East that come down from the Carnic Alps.
This encounter results in a delicate but constant ventilation, essential for the aging of the prosciutti. This process takes place in natural conditions of temperature and humidity, inside the special rooms with many windows, which are often opened to give the prosciutti a constant exposure to natural ventilation.
The heat-regualting function of Tagliamento and the soil
Another essential aspect for the microclimate of San Daniele is the presence of the Tagliamento river, which flows nearby. It is now among the last examples in Europe of an alpine river that preserved almost everywhere natural conditions, given its shape with braided rivers that change constantly according to the carried water volume and the weather conditions. The Tagliamento river plays the important role of natural heat and air humidity regulator, keeping these aspects optimal for the aging of the prosciutti. On the basis of this heat-regulating function, required for the creation of the typical weather conditions of the territory and therefore for the recognition of the acronym DOP, since its inception, the Consorteum of Prosciutto di San Daniele always stood up for the protection of the river from intrusive works. These works in fact, would have impaired its precious contribution, but also its one-of-a-kind ecosystem.
In particular, the Middle Tagliamento Valley has been placed among the sites of the ecological network “Natura 2000” which includes special conservation areas and special protection areas to safeguard biodiversity. And this is another reason why in recent years the possibility of nominating the whole river UNESCO heritage has been under discussion.
The oreography of the area also affects the microclimate of San Daniele. The special soil conformation, mostly pebbly and of morainic origin,has a strong hygroscopic function and therefore tends to drain moisture. This effect interacts with the breezes that meet at the height level of San Daniele and ensures a scarcely damp environment.
An ideal microclimate for the aging of Prosciutto di San Daniele
The importance of the microclimate as a key factor for the aging of Prosciutto di San Daniele comes up repeatedly in the Product Specification. The Product Specification for example points out that from the mixture of the above-described features – the wind crossroads, the presence of the river Tagliamento and the soil composition– derives «an original and constant microclimate». This climate, marked by mild ventilation and low humidity, can be found only in the area of San Daniele. “Famously regarded ideal for the aging of the prosciutti”. And it gives “further distinguishing features, through the microflora conveyance that defines the typical aromas of the product”.
The text overall tends to emphasize that the close link between product and territory has environmental justificatons. «The realization that especially in the past but also currently the production site entirely focused on San Daniele, confirms beyond any doubt that the environmental conditions of this small area are the basis of the product type and the reason to exist – the Product specification says – of the economic history and of the success of the product name ».
The Dop legislation
The importance of the climate factor for the production of prosciutto di San Daniele DOP is reiterated by the European Union. In the regulation on the protection of the designated origin we can read : «Prosciutto di San Daniele is native of the geographical area of San Daniele del Friuli and its features are primarily linked to the production geographical area and its environmental and human features ». And also: «The presence of a distinctive and specific microclimate determined by the orographical and soil characteristics of the production area cause normally low humidity conditions and ventilation that are perfect for the maturing process of prosciutti and for the taste and aroma of Prosciutto di San Daniele».
And lastly the aforementioned Law n. 30 issued in 1990 provides instead for the creation of a buffer zone for the safeguard of the production environment of prosciutto, with special regard to the air quality, on which depend the organoleptic characteristics and the product specifications of the product.
Just three ingredients
For all these reasons, the microclimate of San Daniele is accounted in its own right among the three ingredients of prosciutto di San Daniele DOP. Together with the climate there are the selected Italian pork thighs and the sea salt. The union of these raw materials results in the taste and the organoleptic characteristics , without the need for any additives or preservatives. Not surprisingly the production activities of Prosciutto di San Daniele focused over time solely and exclusively in the same-named municipality. And here craftsmen specialized in the manufacturing of the thighs coming from farms located in top-grade, historical pig-breeding areas have developed.
Nowadays the 31 DOP manufacturing companies are located in the municipality of San Daniele del Friuli. And the processing and maturing steps which lead to the final product can take place only in this Friulian hamlet.