Proctor : March 2019
53 PROCTOR | March 2019 Bubbly and approachable prosecco is now at the centre of an international trade brouhaha over the use of its very name. And with sales booming, the use of the prosecco name becomes a high-stakes affair. The story of prosecco is not dissimilar to many other famous venerable wines in that confusion and years of misrepresented usage don’t fit neatly with the European Union’s system of geographic indications. Bordeaux, for example, is a region where wines are made, and also a style of wine. Prosecco is a light, white sparkling wine made traditionally in and near the village of Prosecco on a hill overlooking the Gulf of Trieste, not far from the border of Slovenia. Complicating this is the fact that, for many years, the principal grape variety used in prosecco was called prosecco and relatively recently (in 2009) this was rediscovered and rebadged as the variety ‘glera’ by the Italian Agriculture Ministry. Glera and winemaking in Prosecco are both quite ancient. The town comes from Roman times when it was Castellum Pucinum and the centre for the wine celebrated by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History as being responsible for Empress Julia Augusta’s long life. 1 The Latin name Pucinum evolved over time with a Slovenian influence to the current Prosecco. The wine prosecco was originally still, and then became sparkling earlier last century. For many years it was produced as a sweet sparkling similar to Asti from Piedmont. Comparatively recently it became more quality focused and tended to become drier. It was only in 2009 that the Prosecco Superiore DOCG region was created to recognise the new quality focus and status amongst the top wines of Italy. In Australia in 1999, Veneto region-born Otto Dal Zotto planted the first few rows of the ‘prosecco’ grapes in Victoria’s King Valley and released his first ‘prosecco’ wine five years later. 2 Brown Brothers followed into prosecco, releasing its first wine in 2009 and, with increased planting in Victoria’s King Valley, became Australia’s largest producers. Since then sales of prosecco have boomed in Australia, the United Kingdom and United States. Our producers argue they planted the prosecco grape and are selling their wine by grape variety name. There is some credence to this proposition as the Italians unilaterally changed their grape name after our vineyards were planted and producing wine. Australian prosecco is exported to many countries and this is the nub of the fight for the name.3 In Italy and Europe, Prosecco is now not the name of a grape variety but a protected name of origin for a wine produced in the region. Australia’s European market has dried up and the battle has now turned to our other markets. Italy has been successful in having the name ‘Prosecco’ protected in Japan and is making applications in India, Malaysia, New Zealand and China. These are all strong or emerging Australian export markets. The trade war is on in earnest for the name of prosecco. The first was the strikingly labelled De Bortoli King Valley Prosecco NV, which was a light straw colour. It had a lazy bead rising sluggishly off the glass and a nose of citrus and crushed sultana. The palate was a jolly spritz in the mouth, the initial burst of sweetness being cut back handsomely with acid to an almost dry finish. The flavours of lime zest and ripe, warm summer peach fell upon the tastebuds. Handsome wine at a handsome price. The second was the seriously created Brown Brothers 2017 King Valley Prosecco, which was straw coloured and beading strongly. The nose showed some restrained granite and floral touches. The palate was similarly restrained and dry, with some fruit and more floral tones supported by a hint of spirit (surprising in a wine of only 11.5% alcohol). The last was the Santa Margherita Valdobbiadene 2017 Prosecco Superiore DOCG, which was a very clear blonde colour and a nose combining the best of floral tones and white peach. The sophisticated palate was pear and pink grapefruit, lychee and zingy citrus acid making a fine dry cutting sparkling wine. Verdict: The most preferred was the Santa Margherita, which was the reference wine, but the De Bortoli would be one to return to again, and again. The tasting Matthew Dunn is Queensland Law Society policy, public affairs and governance general manager. Wine What’s in a name? with Matthew Dunn Three intriguing examples of the wine were subjected to close inspection. Notes 1 “Iulia Augusta LXXXVI annos vitae Pucino vino rettulit acceptos, non alio usa. Gignitur in sinu Hadriatici maris non procul a Timavi fonte, saxoso colle, maritimo adflatu paucas coquente amphoras; nec aliud aptius medicamentis iudicatur. Hoc esse crediderim quod Graeci celebrantes miris laudibus Praetutianum appellaverint ex Hadriatico sinu.” 2 essentialsmagazine.com.au/wine/otto-dal-zotto-on- australian-prosecco. 3 abc.net.au/news/2018-08 -31/australian- prosecco-success-sees-italy-stake-a -claim-on- name/10168914.