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.
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.
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.”
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.