A new Member State, two wines and one controlled designation of origin

Dreaming of a Croatian holiday? ©P McBride
A few days ago Croatia became the 28th Member State of the European Union. While reading news from her native land, this Kat found out that Croatian accession to the EU came together not only with Q&As for holidaymakers, but also some IP-related issues. These involve two wines (Croatian Prošek and Italian Prosecco) and the IP area known as geographical indications of origin.
Italian Prosecco

Being a fan of prosecco but not so knowledgeable about geographical indications of origin, this Kat asked Bournemouth University expert Nicola Coppola to provide more information about this story. 

Here's what Nicola has to say:

When Croatia accessed the European Union on 1 July 2013 Croatian citizens received a warm welcome from the other 27 Member States, but with some embarrassment regarding the choice of the wine to make a toast with …

Croatia, in fact, produces “Prošek”, a sweet dessert wine that is traditionally from the southern area of Dalmatia. It is made using dried wine grapes: they are dried on the roof of the houses on the island of Hvar, offshore Split.

The problem is the similarity of the name of the Croatian speciality with Italian “Prosecco”, a grape from the Veneto Region that is used to produce a sparkling wine bearing the same name. 

Prosecco was granted Controlled Designation of Origin status on 17 July 2009. 

Italian Prosecco producers are concerned that, following Croatian accession, the two wines (although very different in their intrinsic qualities) might be confused. Likewise - and rather unsurprisingly - Croatian producers of Prošek are now worried that the protection awarded to the Italian wine could hinder the possibility to market their product in the EU, and so are trying to defend what they perceive as a right to use the traditional name Prošek.

This echoes the dispute that arose between the Hungarian “Tokaj” wine and the Italian “Tocai” wine at the moment of accession of Hungary to the EU. Despite the differences in the qualities between the two products (Tokaj is a sweet wine and Tocai a dry wine), the then European Court of Justice held that the two names could not coexist, and reserved the use of the name to the Hungarian wine.

Croatians argue that their Prošek boasts a millenarian history, being the preferred wine of Roman Emperor Diocletian, who was born in Split

However, Croatia was not particularly active in defending its specialities during the accession negotiations. On the contrary, Italy extended the area of protected production of Prosecco in 2009, in order to include the town of Prosecco (nearby Trieste, in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia Region and close to the borders with Slovenia).

According to Council Regulation (EC) No 1234/2007 of 22 October 2007 establishing a common organisation of agricultural markets and on specific provisions for certain agricultural products (Single CMO Regulation), if an area of production includes a geographic place having the same name of the grape, nobody outside that area can produce a wine bearing a similar name.

Merpel post wine "tasting" session
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, some anti-geographical indication activists have already labelled the dispute between Italy and Croatia as another example of “Europe's fanaticism on protected food names”, describing Croatia as the “latest victim of the European Commission’s (EC) overreach on protected food names”.

In 2009, a report prepared for the International Intellectual Property Institute in Washington cited the rise in sales of Italian Prosecco as a success story, despite the product being still unprotected by GI laws at that time. The decision of Italian producers to seek protection for the name Prosecco through a Controlled Designation of Origin status looked however like a wise move, considering the potential problems posed by accession of Croatia to the EU.

Meanwhile, fans of both Prošek and Prosecco may want to go on holiday to Macedonia (not part of the EU ... yet!) to forget all about this dispute and explore the archaeological site known as … Prosek. Prosit!
A new Member State, two wines and one controlled designation of origin A new Member State, two wines and one controlled designation of origin Reviewed by Eleonora Rosati on Friday, July 05, 2013 Rating: 5

1 comment:

  1. It would be surprising if "Macedonia" had not appropriated more names than the name of the country itself!


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