Prosecco is perhaps the best-known Italian wine, a byword for the good times and the popping cork. But behind the fizz, Italy is in a major controversy over whether Croatia can sell a premium dessert wine called Prosec in EU stores.
Prosec is made from white grapes, grown primarily in the southern region of Dalmatia, using a traditional process that involves drying them in the sun on straw mats before being pressed. The wine is sold at a premium because it uses many grapes per bottle compared to many other dessert wines, but the name has been banned throughout the European Union since 2013 due to objections from Italians. Instead, the wine is traded under the name Vino Dalmato.
Croatia has since struggled to reverse it. To Italy’s fury, the European Commission follows a recent application by Croatia to grant special status to Prozac under EU Protected Designation (PDO) rules. Prosecco has enjoyed this status since 2009, as well as being protected under Italian law dating back to 1969, and Italians say it is “shameful” that Brussels is considering giving Prosecco the same protection. . So who will win?
Croatia tried to start the registration process for Projekt to obtain PDO status in 2013, the year it joined the European Union. This was rejected by the European Commission, which noted at the time that registration could conflict with Prosecco – even though the two products were completely different.
The Balkan state is emphasizing that Prosec is part of the country’s heritage, which dates back to Roman times. Croatian wine has traditionally been domestically produced – made according to family recipes. It is common that when babies are born in Croatia, parents keep that year’s prek to be eaten on their child’s wedding day.
Prosec does not have an international commercial brand of Prosecco, whose sales are growing strongly despite the pandemic. Prosecco exports grew by 17% in the first four months of 2021, with a total production of more than 600 million bottles a year.
Prosecco is also part of a very long tradition. This dry sparkling wine comes from north-eastern Italy, in the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions, including the area around the village of Prosecco (which gave the wine its name). In the olden days it was also known as Pusinum, taking the name of a nearby castle, and the Roman natural philosopher Gaius Plinius Secundus wrote that the Roman empress Augusta attributed her longevity not to drinking any other wine but to this wine.
What does the law say
Anyone who has been granted a PDO has strong protections within the EU, as they are allowed to prevent others from registering and using names that may mislead consumers as to the actual origin of the product. Huh. They can also prevent other producers from harnessing the “stimulating power” of the brand, including translating it into other languages.
If Italy can persuade the European Commission that the average EU consumer may believe that Prosec is sold (and thus be confused) by Italian producers of Prosecco, or that Prosec is effectively a substitute for Prosecco If the word translated is Croatian, it should be successful in blocking Croatia. application. Italy now has 60 days from the date of submission of Croatia’s application on 22 September to register a formal protest.
It is hard to imagine that allowing prosecutors to be registered in the European Union would do any harm to prosecutors’ sales. Yet Italians fear that if the Commission grants equivalent status to Prosec, it could set a dangerous precedent that could leave room for the proliferation of foreign “Italian-sounding” products, as Italy’s Agriculture Minister Stefano Patuanelli said. has mentioned. Furthermore, Paolo di Castro, an Italian member of the European Parliament, has protested that “Prosic is nothing but a translation of the name ‘Prosecco'”.
The commission justified the Croatian application on the grounds that two similar-sounding names could both be preserved in principle, as long as confusion could be avoided. It is arguably what Croatia will point to during the proceedings in addition to uncovering the centuries-old history of its wine.
However, the current case law could strengthen Italy’s chances of winning. In 2008, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the use of the word Parmesan by German cheesemakers for their version of the famous hard cheese was an illegally developed translation of Italy’s Parmigiano. And just a few weeks ago, that same court found that a tapas chain using the word Champanillo—a Spanish expression for “little champagne”—would lead consumers to believe that the sparkling wines on sale had a connection to French Champagne.
Another EU case that Italy could rely on is the Tokaji dispute of 2005. Tokaji is a Hungarian dessert wine, and the court ruled that Italian winemakers from the Friuli Venezia Giulia region had to stop using the name Tokai for dry white wine due to the potential for confusion.
Given that the Friuli Venezia Giulia is one of the two main regions that make up Prosecco, it would be ironic if ruling against one group of Italian conquerors now benefits some others.