If you email or chat online with any frequency, you may have noticed a proliferation of acronyms being used. BTW (by the way), LOL (laugh out loud), OMG (oh my goodness) and WTF (what the f***) have found their way into our daily electronic communication. There is another set of acronyms you may want to become familiar with when shopping for gourmet cheese and fine wines - AOC, DPO and DO. And while it's important to know what they mean, you will likely never need to say the words in their non-abbreviated form - unless of course, you want to show off your newfound foodie knowledge.

These cheese acronyms only apply to cheeses crafted in the Old World. The European Union (EU) has developed the "Protected Designation of Origin"- a culinary copyright, if you will. Only foods with PDO status are the authentic version. Strict rules govern production particular to the protected food and wine such as region, recipe and method. The countries of France, Italy and Spain have greater quantities of foods and wines that benefit from this labeling system and each have a different acronym reflecting the translation into their respective language.
Appellation d'Origine Controlee (AOC) is the French version of the EU's PDO laws and governs foods such as gourmet cheese, chicken, lentils, honey, butter and fine wine. The genesis of the French food labeling laws was first applied to Roquefort in the 15th century when production was regulated by the French parliament. A few hundred years and and a few hundred cheeses later, only 40 cheeses are protected by the AOC label including our favorites - Brie de Meaux, Camembert de Normandie, Comte, Epoisses, and of course, Roquefort. To illustrate just how stringent these laws are, Roquefort can only be named as such provided that milk from particular herds of sheep is used, the cheese is aged in the natural Combalou caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, France and must be injected with Penicillium roqueforti molds produced in the same cave.

To make matters confusing, Italy utilizes two acronyms to protect food and wine. Italian wines primarily use the Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) assignment while gourmet foods such as prosciutto de Parma, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, gourmet cheese and even San Marzano tomatoes use Denominazione di Origine Protetta (DOP). Gorgonzola, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano and Fontina are just a few of the cheeses from assigned DOP status.

Spain regulates wine and food such as olive oil, jamon Serrano (cured ham), sherry vinegar, and gourmet cheese using Denominación de Origen (DO). A few Spanish DO cheeses you may be familiar with include Cabrales blue cheese, Manchego and Zamorano.

With all of the acronyms in your life, you may be wondering if you need to memorize more. Just knowing they exist and keeping an eye out for them may be enough to help you discover wonderful and exciting examples of traditional food and wine from these European countries. When shopping for gourmet foods and wines, look for these acronyms somewhere on the label. Whether you find the acronyms on gourmet cheese, fine wine or other specialty foods, you'll feel confident knowing you are selecting a taste of quality, heritage, place and a sense of people. Like taking a trip without leaving home.

Author's Bio: 

Even though her passion for gourmet cheese was undying, Sara Kahn found shopping for it to be overwhelming, time consuming and confusing. She established The Cheese Ambassador to offer a simple way to select and serve the world’s finest cheeses. By providing the perfect combination of exquisite cheese along with a comprehensive cheese course guide, enjoying gourmet cheese is now a deliciously enriching experience.