Prosecco or Prošek? Italy and Croatia at loggerheads in the EU

Italy's wine authorities are in a frenzy over Croatia's efforts to gain official recognition for the name of its traditional sweet wine.

Croatian Prošek is a sweet wine produced especially on the island of Hvar / Credit: Mario Hlaca
Croatian Prošek is a sweet wine produced especially on the island of Hvar / Credit: Mario Hlaca

Fearing competitive disadvantages for Prosecco and confusion in export markets, Italy's wine institutions are in an uproar over the possible recognition by the EU of  "Prošek" as a regional denomination.

The dispute has a long history.

Little known outside Eastern Europe, Prošek is a sweet wine that has been produced for centuries from dried grapes in tiny quantities in Dalmatia, and especially on the island of Hvar. When it joined the EU on 1 July 2013, however, Croatia was banned from using its name on wine sold in EU markets because of its similarity to Prosecco.

Eight years later, following an official objection by the Croatians to this ruling, the EU Commission is preparing to publish the Croatian authorities' new application to register the traditional term "prošek" in the Official Gazette, after which Italy's authorities have two months to submit a well-founded counter-argument. 
 

The response in Italy has been immediate and angry. According to a report by the Italian press agency, ANSA, Mara Bizzotto, the politician from Bassano del Grappa, who represents the Veneto region raised an urgent question in the European Parliament saying, "In the face of this crazy decision by the EU, we are ready to go to the barricades to defend Italian Prosecco in any way we can, because it must be clear to everyone that the only true Prosecco is the one produced in our northern Italy," 

Italy's Ministry of Agriculture has taken a similar, if slightly more measured, approach, issuing a statement that "The decision of the European Commission on the recognition of the Protected Geographical Indication of the Croatian wine Prošek is wrong. The Ministry has already opposed this recognition and will use all appropriate arguments to reject Croatia's application for registration". 

The Unione Italiana Vini and the Federdoc association are also rattling their sabres to protect Prosecco against possible confusion with Prošek.

All of this commotion, it should be noted, is not in response to a new ruling by the EU on Prošek- merely to its decision to consider the merits of the Croatian case.

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