Australian Prosecco? How Can This Be?

THE PROSECCO WARS!

I’m almost certain that everyone reading this column will have tasted Prosecco in the last few years – if you’ve resisted, sticking solely to Cava, and maybe occasionally Champagne, as a second choice, of course, then I congratulate you. However, I digress from my theme!

As I’ve said before there has been a tidal wave of Prosecco, of almost tsunami proportions, flooding the UK High Streets, which apparently goes unabated. (In a decade UK sales of Prosecco grew from 1 million bottles to 60 million!). Whilst the UK is in fact the largest market for the Italians, Prosecco sales have been increasing very nicely in other parts of Europe, and indeed, the World! It’s a marketing dream, which brings in millions for the Italian Prosecco producers!

Now, you’ll have noticed that I say ‘Italian’ – well, of course, Prosecco is Italian, obviously! Well, hold on – perhaps it isn’t!

Wait – I implore all of you brand-loyal Prosecco drinkers, don’t yet chuck this article on the barbie! There is mounting evidence which suggests that whilst Italy does of course produce Prosecco, this is not exclusive! At this moment, and it seems to me, having read into the debate, that there is also Australian Prosecco; and if current high level discussion/argument between the Aussies and the Italians eventually leads to the courts, and ultimately judgement favours our Antipodean friends, there will be Prosecco produced in several other countries too!

Brown Brothers, of Australia, producing Prosecco!

And why not try and ‘steal’ a piece of the lucrative action? (In Australia already year on year growth is 50% with Aussie Prosecco sales worth 66 Million dollars and estimated to grow to 200 Million by 2020!)

Well, the Italians, argue that there should be no inverted commas around the word ‘steal’. As we know, DO Cava, for example, is protected by European law, as is Champagne, Chianti, Bordeaux, Port and so on. Therefore, the Aussies have stolen the word Prosecco as it applies solely to an area of production of Sparkling Wine using a specific grape variety – in Italy!

Ah, but the Aussies argue that it’s exactly here that the Italian argument falls – Prosecco is in fact the name of the grape variety and not, despite what the Italians say, the product!

To which the Italians would retort, no, Prosecco is made with the variety Glera!

Enter my esteemed colleague, Jamie Goode, whose blog writing under the sobriquet of ‘Wine Anorak’ is world famous! I’ve been following Jamie’s Tweets, which would appear to present a convincing argument for ‘Australian Prosecco’.

You see, when the Italian grape came to Australia, it’s name was Prosecco, as it was in Italy, and always had been. Thus it was duly planted as such in Oz in order to make sparkling wines. As Jamie says, in 2009, the Italians, aware of the danger of competition and the fact that nobody ‘owns’ the name of a grape variety, decided to rename it, to Glera. They then successfully applied for the name Prosecco (using the Glera grape variety) to be a PDO, a protected regional name – something, as I’ve said, which cannot be done for a variety.

So – they were safe and millions of bottles have been subsequently sold. However, it seems they weren’t in fact as secure as they thought, for the reasons above, and they have therefore, to an extent, become ‘victims’ of their own success. Prosecco sells like hot-cakes (and for me, mostly, tastes as sweet!) so others are trying to emulate the Italians, unsurprisingly.

Italian Prosecco, of course?

What will be the outcome? Well, Jamie believes that, whilst legally the Aussies are right, morally they may not be. Prosecco (that’s Italian Prosecco!) producers have worked very hard and been so successful, should they not be able to continue to enjoy this success, without others, basically just copying them?

Well, I suspect that the Aussies won’t back down (in fact, unless recent Cricket abuses quickly work their way into the Australian psyche causing an easing of their competitive spirit, I’d say it’s a given!) – so how can a compromise be found?

I’ve suggested that Italian Prosecco producers label their product something like ‘The Original Italian Prosecco’ to differentiate it from ‘usurpers’. Jamie seems to concur with this idea and also thinks that, to be fair, the Aussies (and others, for there surely will be a queue of countries who will want to cash-in) should be able to call their wines Prosecco as long as they include their country name.

However – personally, I’m not too bothered, I prefer Cava, by a distance!

(My thanks to Jamie Goode, Max Allen of the Financial Review (whom we both quote) and also Nik Darlington).

colin@colinharknessonwine.com Twitter @colinonwine Facebook Colin Harkness

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