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Bex, BX Bubbles, Champagne, Prosseco ... and the town of Prošek
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Wine Health with Bex Bishop, Winemaker at BX of Napa

Bex, BX Bubbles, Champagne, Prosseco ... and the town of Prošek

Another article hitting home... this one about wine law.

I am intimately familiar with trademark law and wine. I have my own story on why I am no longer my 8 year company name of "Bex of Napa" but now I am reduced to a company without an "e" and go by "BX of Napa". But that's a longer story and not one that is the result of an international agreement but rather a personal one with a big wine company that went back on their word. But I digress... 

However, many Americans have somewhere along the way heard about how we can't call our sparkling wines "champagne" anymore. To be called "Champagne" a sparkling wine must be MADE IN AND FROM the French region of Champagne. Americans should not take national offense, because even the next door region to Champagne, the famed Burgundy (or Bourgogne) is not allowed to call their bubbles Champagne, either. Burgundians and other French regions have instead used a differentiated naming device: "Cremant" even though the exact same methods and neighboring grapes are used. [Note my sparkling wine is "BX Bubbles" because I found "sparkling wine" rather dull and uninspiring.]

You can learn more about Champagne and regulations here. Champagne is regulated better than a stock exchange! I spent some fascinating time with them in Champagne learning the history, regulations and governing bodies -- and that merely scratched the surface. Highly complex!

An international agreement was reached that alcoholic beverages named after a geographic region that invented/inspired/created/is known for them, shall be limited to those single regions, hereto forward. Another example of regional/geographical international naming protection is a favored dessert wine we refer to as "Port". Yes, originally developed in Portugal, but a beverage term all dessert wine lovers know, now -- any other region in the world using those same techniques to produce similarly tasting wines can only use terms like "Port-styled" dessert wine, rather that "Port". 

Cognac is the most famous of brandies, but also a region in France that claims to grow the highest quality grapes for these purposes (brandy is distilled grapes or fruit juice) -- and thus, other regions may allude to Cognac - whose spirits have wider global familiarity like Champagne -- but can only be called brandy.

All this to say, it is not surprising that a town, while geographical, is unfortunate enough to have a name to similar to an another beverage type, is not allowed to use their own name. Cuz, I'm Bex Bishop, but someone else owns my name - so you can just call me BX for short.

The sad truth is that Croatia, like Bex Bishop, doesn't carry the political [read monetary] clout of the larger entities that want their own ideas protected. You have my empathy Croatia.

What’s in a Name: Prošek v. Prosecco
The Story of Prošek Wine and Croatia’s Membership in the EU


An article covering perhaps my favorite topic (intellectual property) in wine law emerged this last week. Unfortunately, or fortunately for On Reserve, the topic did not receive much attention amid major wine publications, but its content does not fail to intrigue at all (at least, not in my opinion). With Croatia’s accession to the European Union scheduled to occur this July, requirements such as the EU’s strict appellation rules must be followed by the joining country. 

Unfortunately—from the perspective of many Croatian winemakers—the beloved wine called Prošek will ceased to be bottled as such starting July 1, 2013. (See EU Prošek Ban Angers Croatian Winemakers – “Vino Dalmato” Replacement Term?) In March, “the [Croatian] agriculture ministry suddenly announced the traditional sweet dessert wine known as Prošek could no longer be sold under its name.” (Croatian Winemakers Upset by EU Label Rules.) Accordingly, in its negotiations, the EU claimed that the Croatian wine named Prošek is too similar to the name of to the effervescent Prosecco produced in Italy’s Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia wine regions. 

Prosecco currently enjoys legal protection under EU rules that govern other wines like Champagne and Port. The battle against Prošek draws a strong correlation to those endless crusades dueled by many Champagne producers: the demand for truth in labeling and place of origin.

While the names of the wines Prošek and Prosecco may linguistically be similar, the onset between these two wines is quite different from those fought by Champagne. Most, if not all, of the Champagne region’s battles seek to discontinue the use of the term “Champagne” on wine products that do not originate from the region. Most significantly, these wines are usually sparkling wines produced outside of Champagne, France and use the term “Champagne” to describe the style of the wine (or, in some cases, to feed off of the name Champagne and the region’s well-established wine products). Similar notions are seen for dessert wines like Port and Sherry. 

However, what is quite different in Prošek v. Prosecco is the fact that Prošek is actually a sweet dessert wine produced for centuries in Dalmatia and is not an effervescent wine, like Prosecco. (See EU madness hits Croatia: No More Prošek From July 1.) The two wines are also produced by exceptionally different methods, Prošek through the passito method and composed typically of grapes native to Croatia and Prosecco through the Charmat method (which requires a second fermentation).

Croatia filed an application to protect the term Prošek, but the European Commission requested that the Ministry withdraw said request. Not much is known about the EC’s request or why Croatia’s Ministry of Agriculture failed to explain the EC’s request to Croatian winemakers timely. “Unless Croatia manages to prove the difference and get the ban lifted, the local producers will have to change its name . . . .” (Croatian Winemakers Upset by EU Label Rules.) Unfortunately for Croatia, “[o]nly a few weeks later, Slovenia said Croatia had no right to produce and market teran, a red wine made in the northern tip of the Adriatic, shared by Italy, Slovenia and Croatia.” (Id.)  

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