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   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 211, November 2021   
Prosecco, Prošek and the War of NamesProsecco, Prošek and the War of Names  Contents 
Issue 210, October 2021 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 212, December 2021

Prosecco, Prošek and the War of Names


 Prosecco is a wine of undeniable success, one of the most prolific and profitable ones made in Italy, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the greatest Italian wines known in the world. A successful wine, in fact, and as often happens, the success has usually a price to pay. Prosecco is also a restless wine, not because of the exuberance of its bubbles, indeed for the facts that have always characterized its fame, both in its own country and in others. A huge planetary success, which has heavily influenced the concept of sparkling wines in general, especially in that of wine service, where – too often – any sparkling or slightly sparkling wine is generically called “prosecco”, not to mention the horrifying and deplorable diminutive definition, at least for me, which takes the annoying definition of “prosecchino” (literally, “little Prosecco”). This too is clearly a consequence of success, although – in this case – it certainly is not be considered in a positive way, indeed a “rough fad” not to be proud of, nevertheless useful to understand the terrible and very scarce enological and professional competence of the unfortunate “wine pourer by chance”.


 

 Producers have tried to safeguard their wine, also and in order to avoid any possible consequence related to the use of the name “Prosecco”, the homonymous district of Trieste, therefore in Friuli Venezia-Giulia region. The name of this district, as it is well known, has given in the past the name to both the grape and the famous sparkling wine and which, in turn, comes from its Slovenian name “Prosek”. In 2009, with the aim of safeguarding the Prosecco DOC (therefore the wine), a new disciplinary has been issued which provided for the obligation to call the grape used for making Prosecco as Glera. A preventive measure of protection also adopted as a consequence of what happened in the unfortunate and well-known story between the Hungarian Tokaji and the Tocai Friulano grape. The name Prosecco, referring to the wine, is undeniably evocative and equivocal, suggesting a clear reference to the quantity of sugar contained in the wine, that is “in favor of dryness” or “basically dry”, therefore suggesting a certain level of sweetness. And it is right because of this misunderstanding that countless and evident attempts at imitation have been perpetrated, based whole or in part both on the prefix “pro” and the word “secco”, the latter undeniably being a technical wine making term (literally, “dry”), used to refer to the sweetness of a wine.

 It is a well known fact, success is something arousing the interest of those who have less, often trying to exploit it in a subtle way and, last but not the least, even resorting to plagiarism in an evident way. In this sense, Prosecco, and more generally, the products of the Italian agricultural and food industry, have always been subjected to blatant attempts of plagiarism and imitation. From cheeses to wines, passing through any successful Italian food product in the world, the list is very long. Prosecco – the famous sparkling wine that evidently needs no further introduction – is certainly among the Italian products to be more “plagiarized”, very often with wines, not necessarily sparkling wines, sold with names which unequivocally recall the famous wine from Treviso. The most typical expedient is to “play” with the term “secco” which, as already mentioned, is also a term used in the enological world to refer to the level of sweetness, therefore the sugar content in a wine. Regardless of its legitimate and unequivocal use, very often the attempt at plagiarism against Prosecco is all too evident.

 In the recent past weeks, the consortia for the safeguarding of Prosecco – of all the denominations – along with the trade associations and the Italian institutions, have opposed within the European Community against the request for the recognition of protection for a Croatian wine, an issue that seemed to be dormant since 2013. Croatia, in fact, has submitted a request for protection – also published in the Gazette of the Agriculture Commission of the European Union – of the traditional term “Prošek”. It is a wine from Southern Croatia, which – in fact – has no enological analogy with the Italian Prosecco, as it is a sweet wine – made with dried grapes – in the white and red styles. Therefore, in this case, it is not about emulating the style, indeed – so they claim from Italy – about getting recognition for a blatant case of “Italian sounding”, that is to evoke an Italian product with a similar name, therefore equivocal.

 If it is true that the countless protests raised in the past to protect Prosecco were lawful and legitimate, I believe, however, this attitude cannot be always supported and in any case. Let me be clear: the safeguarding of Italy's agro-food production is unquestionable and indisputable: in case the attempt at plagiarism is clearly proved, we must resolutely and unequivocally adopt proper measures, both for the safeguarding of Italian production and for the protection of the economic profits. It seems equally evident that when you copy or plagiarize something, you do it only with successful products, such as Prosecco wine. The case of the Croatian Prošek, in my opinion, should be considered differently. It is a sweet wine, produced with dried grapes, in the white styles – obtained from the native varieties Bogdanuša, Maraština, and Vugava – and red, the latter product adding to the grapes used for the white style, the Plavac Mali variety. All too evident, the name – Prošek – unequivocally recalls the famous sparkling wine produced in Veneto and Friuli Venezia-Giulia.

 Croatia, in rejecting the accusations made by Italy, argues that their Prošek is a traditional wine and is being produced since a long time, having a history of about three hundred years, some even say two millennia. The Croatians, in fact, according to the declaration of their Minister of Agriculture, argue that Prošek is a traditional sweet wine of the country, mentioned for the first time in 1774, currently produced in the areas of protected denomination of origin in northern, central and southern Dalmatia, Dalmatian Zagora and Dingac. In the same statement, it was also underlined there currently are only thirty producers involved in the production of this wine, for a total of 20 hectoliters per year – as a matter of fact, a little over 2600 bottles – which would be for the most part, they say, entirely marketed for the domestic consumption. Numbers that, compared to those of Prosecco – five hundred million bottles in 2020 – make it hard to believe any possible market threat. It would be as if little David had to face – with his bare hands and without even counting on his mighty slingshot – millions of copious armies of fierce and fully armed Goliaths.

 It could be argued it is also a question of principle: after all, it is the registration of the name Prošek, considered a threat to the identity of Italian Prosecco, to be objected. As already mentioned, there have been and are many attempts to plagiarize the name of this famous Italian wine, therefore Prošek would represent just another attempt. I believe – and it is my very personal opinion – that if it is true Prošek is a traditional wine from Croatia, with a documented and proved history, it is not right to deny the affirmation of this identity, part of the enological history of Croatia, therefore of the world of wine in general, in the same way Prosecco is for Italy, only because there is an evident similarity of the two names. As it is right and indisputable for Italy to affirm and safeguard its agro-food production, the same right is equally just and inalienable for any other country. I would rather worry in case a consumer were to buy Croatian Prošek convinced that, in reality, it is Italian Prosecco. Not just a bad consumer, but definitely a very ignorant “wine drinker”. Someone who, personally speaking – for the love, passion and respect I have for wine – is way better to keep at a distance, as they wouldn't even be a worthy ambassador of Prošek nor of Prosecco. Not to mention, of wine.

Antonello Biancalana



   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 211, November 2021   
Prosecco, Prošek and the War of NamesProsecco, Prošek and the War of Names  Contents 
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