Apparently, Prosecco Is Having an Existential Crisis

Where winemaking meets international politics

What's in a name? The answer, it turns out, is a lot.
Corina Rainer/Unsplash

One is a sparking wine from Italy. One is a still dessert wine from Croatia. And the debate over them is causing abundant friction between two of the E.U.’s member states. The debate around Prosecco and Prošek is heating up — and, much like heat itself, that’s a worrying thing for wine enthusiasts.

Here’s the short version: last month, Croatia sought a protected designation for Prošek — which, according to a Reuters report, has a long history all its own. The Italian government then announced its intention to fight the application. Perhaps the most overblown quote came from Veneto governor Luca Zaia, who said, “They are stealing an important label from our country, it’s as if they wanted to take away Ferrari.”

Now, if Prošek was also a light, effervescent wine, Zaia might have a point. But, strictly speaking, the odds of the two being confused in practice seem low to the point of nonexistence. A wine shop that shelves sparking wines next to dessert wines with no indication of which is which is probably not a wine shop that’s going to be in business very long — and a wine drinker who can’t tell the difference between the two styles is also unlikely to care much about historic traditions and wine regions.

A new report from The New York Times includes more details about the looming showdown between wine producers in the two countries. This includes the opinion of some Italian winemakers, including Enrico Bortolomiol, grandmaster of the magnificently-named Confraternity of Valdobbiadene, that the name of Prosecco itself has reached the end of the line and should be replaced with a more specific system of nomenclature. The beverage itself may be light and bubbly, but the debates it’s provoked are anything but.


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