Croatian winemakers have leapt to the defence of their centuries-old dessert wine, prošek, amid a renewed prosecco identity war sparked by Italy.
Italy said it would defend prosecco at all costs after Croatia applied to the European Commission for special recognition of prošek.
It is the second time Croatia has moved to get the trademark recognised after Italy succeeded in blocking a first attempt in 2013, arguing that the name prošek was too similar to prosecco. Croatian winemakers agree that the two words sound similar, but they argue that consumers can easily distinguish between the two.
Prošek, which is made using dried grapes, originated in the Dalmatia region, which between 1420 and 1797 was ruled by the Republic of Venice.
“So think about it. The capital of my island used to be Venice, so this is almost like waging a battle against Venetians, and obviously you are going to find similarities between the two languages,” said Ivo Dubokovic, a wine producer in Jesla, on the Dalmatian island of Hvar.
“And if you ask a foreigner or English person, I’m sure that 99% of people would understand that they are two different words. As for the product, prošek is similar to vin santo and prosecco is similar to white wine with fizzy water.”
The makers of prošek contend that their wine dates back more than 2,000 years, and although prosecco has a long history too, it wasn’t until the 1930s that the north-eastern Italian regions of Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia were officially marked out as Italy’s prosecco-producing areas.
Italy has been fending off threats to prosecco’s identity since 2009, when the it was granted DOC, or denomination of controlled origin, across nine production areas and the superior DOGC, or denomination of controlled and guaranteed origin, for one area in Veneto. This means the name can be used only if authorised by the Treviso-based consortium of prosecco producers.
The president of Veneto, Luca Zaia, said prosecco “must be defended at every level”. “Every now and then, they try again, like an old catchphrase,” he told Italian media. “But prosecco has its own identity that cannot be confused at all, and it is scandalous that Europe allows such procedures to be implemented.
“It is not just a question of avoiding confusion on the markets, but safeguarding an identity right.”
Coldiretti, Italy’s main farmers’ association, said the move by Croatia was “an attack against Made in Italy”.