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The preserver

About Speck Alto Adige PGI and its roots

The Speck Alto Adige Consortium has existed for 30 years, and Martin Knoll is the Managing Director. He has a passion for safeguarding the quality of the traditional South Tyrolean speciality Speck smoked ham and drawing attention to it on an international level. How does that work? With a lot of commitment and, above all, not working alone.

A centuries-old tradition

When you think of Speck smoked ham, you think of South Tyrol. And not without reason: Speck Alto Adige is older than the autonomous province itself. It was born out of the need to preserve pork before refrigerators and freezers existed. People used two methods, which were different in the north and south of Europe. “This mixture of northern European curing with light smoking and Mediterranean drying could only be born in South Tyrol, because South Tyrol is a transitional region," explains Martin Knoll. The mixture of herbs and spices with which the meat is rubbed at the production plants still comes from family recipes that are often a hundred years old.

Then and now

Four years after the consortium was founded in 1992, Speck smoked ham was given the European designation of origin Speck Alto Adige PGI for the first time. This was intended to prove its quality to consumers and, at the same time, guarantee this. In addition, they wanted to protect themselves from copycats producing Speck smoked ham outside the province of South Tyrol and saying this originated from South Tyrol. The challenges? “In the 1990s, these were mainly the administrative hurdles to setting up the organisation and establishing a uniform manufacturing regulation,” says Martin Knoll. The members of the consortium undertake to only produce Speck smoked ham according to traditional methods and with regular monitoring. “Nowadays, there are a total of 28 producers who belong to the protection association – we started with 17.”

Small but exquisite

Martin Knoll has been working as Managing Director of the Speck Alto Adige Consortium since 2020. From his office in the heart of Bolzano's old town, he takes care of quality policy, brand protection and the needs of producers. In Italy and Germany, he plans a wide range of communication activities to promote Speck Alto Adige PGI. In South Tyrol, these range from guided tours for guests to festivals and educational programmes, such as the Speck Academy. What could he not live without at his workplace besides his computer and telephone? “First and foremost, my team! There are only three of us in the office. That means everyone has to be able to do everything so that they can step in if someone is away.” And what is a typical day like? No day is the same: “Our work is as varied as Speck smoked ham."

Pure Speck smoked ham and quality

Would you say that tradition equals quality?

Tradition is an important element. With a protected product like ours, the aim is always to preserve tradition through specific quality criteria. Tradition provides a certain quality. This must be protected, preserved and, above all, controlled.

What is your favourite way to eat Speck smoked ham and what goes best with it?

I like Speck Alto Adige PGI best when eaten on its own, either thinly sliced Carpaccio style or as a thicker piece. It pairs perfectly with light red wines, as well as with fruity white wines and fruit.

Text: Cara Biank

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