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The name ‘Prosecco’ is at the center of a dispute between winemakers in Italy and Croatia

Winemaker Milos Skabar stands in his vineyard near Trieste, Italy. (Antonio Calanni/AP)
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A spat is bubbling between Italy and Croatia over the name “Prosecco” as Croatian winemakers apply for the European Union to recognize the name “Prosek” for a dessert wine.

The little-known Croatian wine, traditionally made in the southern area of Dalmatia, shares its roots with Prosecco, and its winemakers hope to use their ties to gain popularity.

“Prosekar wine is the original, because it was born 300 years before Prosecco,” winemaker Milos Skabar told the Associated Press.

The E.U. agreed in September to consider Croatia’s application to give its Prosek wine a Protected Designation of Origin label, or PDO, which angered Italian producers who argued the name would confuse consumers. The PDO status designates food, agricultural products and wines that belong to a specific geographic region as those that “have the closest links with their place of production.”

Croatian winemakers argue that the traditional wine has always been called Prosek and denied that the E.U.’s giving it protected status will confuse wine enthusiasts. “They have nothing in common,” Croatian wine producer Alen Bibic toold Wine Magazine. “Prosecco is a sparkling wine; it has nothing to do with our dessert wine that is almost like sherry.”

Luca Zaia, the governor of Veneto in Italy, a region known for producing top-quality Prosecco, said at the time that the E.U. decision was “shameful.” The region’s “prosecco hills” were declared a World Heritage Site in 2019 by UNESCO. Zaia said that by allowing the Croatian application to move forward, “the history and identity of a territory is destroyed,” Forbes reported.

The marketability and name recognition of a multibillion-dollar business also are at stake. Prosecco has recently risen in popularity, and its production is eclipsing that of champagne, with more than 600 million bottles produced yearly.

But having two names that are similar didn’t seem to be a problem for the E.U. “Two homonymous terms may co-exist under certain conditions” as long as consideration is given to “local and traditional usage and the risk of confusion for the consumer,” said E.U. Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski in explaining Brussels’s decision to consider Croatian winemakers’ request.

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