Italy is attempting to prevent Croatia from gaining protected status for a traditional dessert wine called Prosek, arguing that it sounds too similar to Prosecco.
Prosecco, which comes from northeastern Italy, currently has Protected Designation of Origin status in the European Union. The designation is the reason the Prosek label has been banned in the EU since 2013, as it prevents the use of names that could cause confusion about the true origin of a product, and names that evoke a protected product.
However, the European Commission has agreed to consider a recent application from Croatia to grant the same status to Prosek, which would allow it to be used in the EU.
Italian winemakers are worried about the similarity of the names causing confusion for customers, even though Prosek is a dessert wine with no bubbles and is made with different grapes to Prosecco.
"Everyone perceives the situation as a threat to our success," Prosecco producer Stefano Zanette said, with international buyers possibly thinking that Prosek and Prosecco are the same product, and that they both come from Italy.
Prosecco is the world's top-selling wine, with annual sales of about $2.8 billion.
The Italian government has promised to oppose Croatia's application, and other makers of protected products with distinct geographic origins, from Italy's Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to France's Champagne, are also against it.
Croatia argues that the Prosek name and tradition is centuries old — older than Prosecco's protections in the EU labeling system. Croatia also says Prosek being a dessert wine makes it distinct from Prosecco.
"Consumers will not be confused by this," Ladislav Ilcic, a Croatian member of the European Parliament, said in a recent debate.
The European Commission has said that two similar-sounding names can both have protected status as long as confusion for the consumer is avoided.