Guest Post: Are the Prosecco Police Stepping Out of Line?

Are the Prosecco Police Stepping Out of Line?

This is a headline you really couldn’t make up, the Italian authorities  have employed a crack team of wine police to patrol bars and restaurants. Led by wine expert Andrea Battistella, this team isn’t on the lookout for boozy revellers, it is fighting back against sub-standard wine.

Battistella has been dubbed “007 Prosecco” by the Italian media, and is tasked with making sure that customers are served the original sparkling wine, not a cheap imitation. Rather ironic for a wine many people consider to be a cheap imitation of champagne.

Joking aside, this is serious business, any restaurant found offending faces a €20,000 fine. So what is all the fuss about?

Firstly, as many of us know, Prosecco is not cheap champagne, with an entirely different production process, it has a taste and character of its own. The sparkling wine was first produced in the 19th century and is restricted to Italy’s north-eastern extremes of Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

Prosecco Batistella ArticleJust down the Adriatic coast though, lies the Croatian region of Dalmatia, surprisingly, there is also a rich winemaking history to be found here. As well as spotty dogs, Dalmatia is renowned for a wine called Prošek.

In the age of trademarking and copyright law, it’s not difficult to see how this has become an disputed topic. As Croatia was preparing to enter the EU, former Italian agriculture minister, Luca Zaia, stated unequivocally that Croatia must stop production of Prošek as a condition of its membership.

To maintain standards, Italian law states that Prosecco can only be served from a bottle. To stamp out bait-and-switch scams where cheaper wines are sold as Prosecco, Andrea Battistella has been given public security agent powers to catch out anyone selling from a tap or carafe.

The 28 year old oenology graduate claims that similar fizzy wines from emerging regions like Brazil are a huge threat to Italy’s winemaking status. Brazilian wine however, is the product of Italian wine, produced by decedents of Italian emigrants, they use techniques that would be instantly recognised in Veneto.

That’s where the Italian argument runs out of fizz, winemaking is a constantly evolving science, you can’t put a stop to progress. Moreover, to suggest that Prošek is a cheap imitation is just narrow minded, almost as narrow minded as calling Prosecco cheap champagne.

The Italian media has done their best to escalate the rivalry, but a quick scan of the two bottles suggests they are pointing the finger in the wrong direction. Compared the crisp dry white of Prosecco, Prošek is syrupy, sweet with a rose colour.

Bars badging one brand as the other is fraud, we cannot argue that. If you ordered a Grey Goose and got Smirnoff you would quite rightly be annoyed, although you may not notice after adding a mixer. To an educated customer though it would be very difficult for a barman to pass Prošek off as Prosecco.

The Italian authorities have been battling with imitation wine for years. Prošek though, seems to have been made a foreign scapegoat for what is essentially an internal problem. Battistella is right to be doing this job, but Italian politicians and media have used him to further smear their neighbours.

We need education, not subjugation, if consumers knew the difference then they could make their own decisions.

About the Author

Joe Errington is a blogger who writes about food and drink for Juicy Grape Wines.

Editor’s note

What is your opinion about Italy’s “Prosecco Police” and the job that Battistella has? Do you want to be one of our next guest authors? All guidelines for guest posting on Vino in Love can be found here

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23 comments on “Guest Post: Are the Prosecco Police Stepping Out of Line?”

  1. drinkforlife Reply

    I didn’t know about this ongoing situation.. I think the Italians shouldn’t be so uber protective because prosek has obviously nothing in common with prosecco..
    Very good guest post 🙂 Enjoyed reading this piece a lot!

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Drinkforlife,
      Thank you so much. Well Battistella is not only investigating Prosek – he is investigating on any type of wine that is being sold as Prosecco – no matter what country it is from.

  2. Sean P. Reply

    Interesting article I have to say. Didn’t know about this yet. Croatia certainly won’t have a good chance of winning this “war” against Italy. Prosecco is a protected term and the name prosek is just way too similar.

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Sean,
      I think you are right that the Croatians will sooner or later be forced by the EU to change the name of Prosek into something else. As far as I know the EU decided that Croatian wineries are not allowed to sell Prosek anymore starting from July 1st, the day Croatia joined the EU.

  3. theducksong Reply

    what a story! almost unbelievable that a national government is using its police forces to investigate on such banalities!

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Theducksong,
      Wine is an important part of the Italian economy. I can understand why they use the police to investigate on false declared Prosecco.

  4. wineking3 wineking3 Reply

    Julian thanks for sharing this post with us. I’m not sure what the best solution here would be but I’m of the opinion that Prosek and Prosecco could easily be confused by the average Joe so I can understand the Italian authorities that are pushing this issue through the European Parliament..

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Wineking,
      I’m glad you enjoy this guest post. I agree that the names Prosek and Prosecco are quite similar. A name change for Prosek will be inevitable now that Croatia is in the EU,

  5. hannah-theis hannah-theis Reply

    I have to try Brazilian Prosecco! I didn’t know that the Brazilians produce a sparkling wine that is similar to the Venetian Prosecco.. How exciting : -)

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Hannah,
      Italian immigrants brought the production methods for producing Prosecco to Brazil. I’ve never tried one but heard that they are decent sparkler.

  6. Suzanne Reply

    Really interesting, sounds to me like Battistella has created a dream job for himself. The difference between Prosek and Prosecco seems vast, I have never had Prosek before (to my knowledge) so I cannot speak from experience but the difference seems to be easily discerned. Great post!

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Suzanne,
      Prosek is more like a sweet wine that is produced similar to the Italian passito (sweet wines). If someone knows what a Prosecco is then it’s nearly impossible to sell Prosek as Prosecco. But foreign tourists might not know what Prosecco is and if they are being served Prosek then that’s not ok. So I can understand the investigations that Battistella is doing. In the long run the EU will force Croatian wineries to change the name Prosek to something else.

    • Joe Reply

      Sadly he doesn’t get to taste the wine, he just orders it and sneaks up on the barman to catch him pouring from a decanter. Still a nice way of travelling around the country though,

  7. foodwine88 Reply

    Good to see that the government is fighting false-delcared proseccos. I hope Battistella’s mission will be a success because when I order a prosecco I want to be certain that I don’t get served something else!

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Foodwine88,
      Thanks for commenting! I agree with you that it’s good that the police is checking whether the restaurants serve real prosecco or not but trust me that it’s nearly impossible to serve somebody Croatian Prosek instead of Prosecco..

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