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Prosecco wars: Italy protests Croatia’s bid for special status for its prošek wine

Italy is for a second time fighting to block Croatia’s attempts to get EU recognition for its dessert wine, describing the move as "an attack on Made in Italy".

Prosecco wars: Italy protests Croatia's bid for special status for its prošek wine
Photo: KRIS CONNOR/GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

It’s one of Italy’s most famous – and most often imitated – wines. And now, Prosecco producers and Italian politicians have responded angrily to what they claim is the latest “attack” on the tradition from outside Italy.

After neighbouring Croatia submitted its second application for special EU recognition for its centuries-old dessert wine, prošek, Italian members of the European Parliament have protested to the European Commission.

“We cannot tolerate the protected denomination ‘Prosecco’ becoming the object of imitations and misuses, particularly within the European Union,” wrote Paolo De Castro, an MEP and former Italian Agriculture Minister, in a letter sent to the EU Commissioner for Agriculture this week.

“Prosěk is nothing but the translation into Slovenian of the name ‘Prosecco’,” wrote De Castro.

Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco vineyards in Italy’s Veneto region. Photo: Miguel MEDINA/AFP

Luca Zaia, governor of the Prosecco-producing region Veneto, told Italian media: “Every now and again they try. But Prosecco has its own identity, and it is shameful that Europe allows such operations”.

Italian farmers’ association Coldiretti said the move by Croatia was “an attack against Made in Italy”.

Italy blocked Croatia’s first attempt to register prošek in 2013, when it argued that the name was too similar to prosecco. 

READ ALSO: ‘We can’t tolerate it’: Italian authorities seize ‘unauthorised’ Prosecco-flavoured Pringles

Although Croatian winemakers have conceded that the two words are similar, they say this is because of the two countries’ historical and linguistic connections, and argue that buyers will easily be able to tell the two wines apart.

“When Croatians say “prošek”, they mean sweet, dessert wine made near the Adriatic coast from the grapes that have been dried in the sun in order to concentrate the sugar in their juice,” explained Iva Tatic from the Total Croatia Wine blog.

“When Italians say “prosecco” (admittedly, the two words do sound alike), they mean the sparkling wine, produced exclusively in northern Italy, made from the glera grape variety, often blended with other white wine varieties.”

READ ALSO: Not just Prosecco: here are the other Italian sparkling wines you need to try

The Prosecco sparkling white, which has the highest classification available to an Italian wine, is produced in a territory spread over nine provinces in Italy’s north-east.

While the region spans over 500 towns in total, only 15 make Prosecco Superiore DOCG, the top-quality wine produced around the Venetian towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, where complex geology is thought to make for a more diverse, flavourful taste.

Prosecco’s booming popularity both in Italy and abroad in recent years has led to concerns that the soil in the small geographical area may be eroded and irreversibly damaged by production.

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FOOD & DRINK

From spritz to shakerato: Six things to drink in Italy this summer

Summer in Italy means lots of things - trips to the beach, empty cities, strikes, and metro works - but it also ushers in the spritz and negroni season. Here are some of the best drinks to cool down with in Italy this summer.

From spritz to shakerato: Six things to drink in Italy this summer

Spritz

Venice wins all the prizes for being the home of the spritz: the jewel in Italy’s summertime daisy crown and one of the country’s most popular exports.

To first-time customers, the sweet-and-bitter combo can taste unpleasantly like a poisoned alcopop. Stick with it, however, and you’ll soon learn to appreciate this sunset-coloured aperitif, which has come to feel synonymous with summer in Italy.

The most common version is the bright orange Aperol Spritz, but if this starts to feel too sweet once your tastebuds adjust then you can graduate to the dark red Campari Spritz, which has a deeper and more complex flavour profile.

What are the best summer drinks to order in Italy?

Photo by Federica Ariemma/Unsplash.

Negroni

If you’re too cool for the unabashedly flamboyant spritz but want something not too far off flavour-wise, consider the Negroni.

It’s equal parts gin, vermouth and Campari – though if you want a more approachable version, you can order a ‘Negroni sbagliato’ – literally a ‘wrong’ Negroni – which replaces the gin with sweet sparkling Prosecco white wine.

Served with a twist of orange peel and in a low glass, the Negroni closely resembles an Old Fashioned, and is equally as stylish. A traditional Negroni may be stirred, not shaken, but it’s still the kind of cocktail that Bond would surely be happy to be seen sipping.

Crodino

Don’t fancy any alcohol but still crave that bitter, amaro-based aftertaste?

A crodino might be just what you’re after. With its bright orange hue, it both looks and tastes very similar to an Aperol Spritz – so much so that you might initially ask yourself whether you’ve in fact been served the real thing.

Similar in flavour are soft drinks produced by the San Pellegrino brand; bars that don’t have any crodino on hand will often offer you ‘un San Pellegrino’ as a substitute. These drinks are usually available in multiple flavours like blood orange, grapefruit, or prickly pears.

A barman prepares a Campari Spritz cocktail in the historic Campari bar at the entrance of Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuel II shopping mall. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

Chinotto

Much like the crodino, the chinotto is another distinctive bitter Italian aperitivo drink.

With its medium-dark brown colouring, however, the chinotto bears more of a resemblance to Coca Cola than to the spritz, leading to its occasionally being designated as the ‘Italian Coca Cola’.

In reality far less caramelly and much more tart than coke, the chinotto has its detractors, and the fact that we’re having to describe its flavour here means it clearly hasn’t set the world alight since it was first invented in the 1930s (it was subsequently popularised by San Pellegrino, which became its main Italian producer).

If you’re looking for another grown-up tasting alternative to an alcoholic aperitivo, however, the chinotto might just be the place to look.

Bellini

What’s not to love about the bellini?

Its delicate orange and rose-pink tones are reminiscent of a sunset in the same way as a spritz, but with none of the spritz’s complex and contradictory flavours.

A combination of pureed peach and sugary Prosecco wine, the bellini’s thick, creamy texture can almost make it feel smoothie or even dessert-like. It’s a sweet and simple delight, with just a slight kick in the tail to remind you it’s not a soft drink.

Shakerato

Not a fan of drinks of the fruity/citrusy/marinated herby variety?

If caffeine’s more your thing, Italy has an answer for you in the caffe shakerato: an iced coffee drink made with espresso, ice cubes, and sugar or sugar syrup.

That might not sound inspired at first, but hear us out: the three ingredients are vigorously mixed together in a cocktail shaker before the liquid is poured (ice cube-free) into a martini glass, leaving a dark elixir with a delicate caramel coloured foam on top.

You couldn’t look much more elegant drinking an iced coffee than sipping one of these.

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