Prosecco or Prošek? The battle of Italy and Croatia for the wine brand

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Prosecco is arguably the most famous Italian wine, synonymous with sparkling good times and sparkling corks. But behind the sparkling, Italy is in a major dispute over whether Croatia can sell a high-end dessert wine by the name of prošek in stores across the EU.

Prošek is made from white grapes grown mainly in the southern region of Dalmatia, following a traditional process of drying them in the sun on straw mats before they are pressed.

The wine sells for a higher price because it uses far more grapes per bottle than many other dessert wines, but the name has been banned across the EU since 2013 due to objections from Italians. Instead, the wine is marketed under the name Vino Dalmato.

Croatia has been fighting for this to be reversed ever since. Much to Italy’s fury, the European Commission followed up on a recent request from Croatia for proÅ¡ek to be granted special status under the EU’s protected designation of origin (PDO) rules.

Prosecco has enjoyed this status since 2009, in addition to being protected by Italian law dating back to 1969, and Italians say it is “shameful” that Brussels is considering granting equivalent protection to proÅ¡ek. So who will win?

PDO status for Prošek

Croatia tried to start the registration procedure to obtain PDO status for proÅ¡ek in 2013, the year of its accession to the EU. This was refused by the European Commission, which noted at the time that the registration could conflict with prosecco – even though the two products are completely different.

The Balkan State emphasizes that the proÅ¡ek is part of the country’s heritage, dating back to before Roman times. Croatian wine is traditionally produced in the country, according to family recipes. It is common that when children are born in Croatia, parents keep this year’s proÅ¡ek to consume on the wedding day of their offspring.

What prošek does not have is the international trademark of prosecco, whose sales have risen sharply despite the pandemic. Exports of prosecco increased by 17% in the first four months of 2021, with total production of over 600 million bottles per year.

Prosecco is also part of a very long tradition. This dry sparkling wine comes from northeastern Italy, the regions of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia, including the surroundings of the village of Prosecco (which gave the wine its name).

It was once also known as pucinum, taking the name of a nearby castle, and the Roman natural philosopher Gaius Plinius Secundus wrote that the Roman Empress Augusta attributed her longevity to drinking no other wine than this one.

Anyone with a PDO enjoys strong protection within the EU, as they are authorized to prevent others from using and registering names that could confuse consumers as to the true origin of the product. product. They can also prevent other producers from harnessing the brand’s “evocative power”, including translating it into other languages.

Croatia’s candidacy

If Italy can persuade the European Commission that the average EU consumer may believe that prosěk is sold by Italian prosecco producers (and therefore be confused), or that prosěk is indeed the translated Croatian term for prosecco, it should succeed in blocking the application. Italy now has 60 days from the date Croatia filed September 22 to file a formal opposition.

It is hard to imagine that allowing prosÄ›k to be registered in the EU would be detrimental to sales of prosecco. Still, Italians fear that if the commission grants equivalent status to proÅ¡ek, it could set a dangerous precedent that could give way to a proliferation of foreign “Italian-sounding” products, as the Italian Minister of Agriculture noted. , Stefano Patuanelli.

In addition, Paolo de Castro, an Italian member of the European Parliament, protested that “prosÄ›k is nothing more than the translation… of the name ‘prosecco’”.

The committee justified the Croatian request on the grounds that two similar sounding names can both be protected in principle, as long as confusion can be avoided. This is undoubtedly what Croatia will also emphasize during the procedure, in addition to highlighting the centuries-old history of its wine.

Italy’s chances of winning

Nevertheless, the existing case law could strengthen Italy’s chances of victory. In 2008, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the use of the term Parmesan by German cheesemakers for their version of the famous hard cheese was an evocatively illegal translation of Italian Parmesan. And just a few weeks ago, the same court ruled that a tapas chain using the term champanillo – a Spanish expression for “little champagne” – would trick consumers into believing that the sparkling wine on sale had something to do with champagne. French.

Another EU case that Italy could lean on is the tokaji dispute of 2005. Tokaji is a Hungarian dessert wine, and the court ruled that Italian winegrowers in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region must stop to use the name tocai for dry white wine because of the potential for confusion.

Given that Friuli Venezia Giulia is one of the two main prosecco producing regions, it would be ironic if a ruling against one group of Italian winemakers now ends up benefiting others.

News by Reuters, edited by MY. For more information on drinks, click here. Click on subscribe to subscribe ESM: European Magazine of Supermarkets.

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