Don't Mistake Italy's Prosecco For Croatia's Prošek
Image Credit: PEXELS

In 2021, when Croatia quietly applied for a European Union (EU) recognition label for their dessert wine called Prošek, it triggered outrage among wine producers in Italy. The move came after years of a tug of war between the two nations over branding for the iconic wines they respectively produce. 

On the Italian side is Prosecco, most commonly thought of as an alternative to champagne. On the other side is Prošek, described as a centuries-old sweet dessert wine.

So what exactly sets the two apart? As Croatia has argued, a lot.

Prošek is made from white grapes cultivated in the Southern Croatian region of Dalmatia. There are four main grape varieties that are used: Bogdanuša, Vugava, Maraština, and Plavac Mali. Once harvested, the grapes are laid out on straw mas and dried in the sun. Only then are they pressed. This traditional process is called "passito".

The Prošek's claim to fame is that it uses more grapes to produce a bottle of wine as compared to other beverages in its class. It results in a well-balanced drink with aromas of "ripe apricots, raisins, figs, and orange zest," according to Taste Atlas. Over time, the wine "tends to develop notes of honey, caramel and dry fruit". And as a dessert wine, it pairs excellently with dry fruit, nuts and cheese.

Prošek is usually made according to family recipes in Croatia, and an old custom dictates that when a child is born into a family, the parents save the wine from that year to serve on his/her wedding day.

Since 2013, Prošek has retailed under the name of "Vino Dalmato" due to pressure from Italy.

Prosecco too has a long and storied tradition. It draws its name from the village of Prosecco in Trieste, Italy, and also from the eponymous grape (a thin-skinned green variety that is also called "Glera") that forms the mainstay of its composition. It is mainly produced in the Veneto region. 

Prosecco is usually made in the sparkling or semi-sparkling style, and it is fermented in stainless steel tanks rather than in individual bottles. Yeast and sugar are added directly to the base wine in the tanks for the second fermentation. This makes it less expensive to produce than, say, champagne.  

Prosecco is a young wine, and the best vintages are usually within the 3-5 year range. However, some premium Proseccos are aged for up to seven years. 

While Italy has contested Croatia's use of the name Prošek, Prosecco itself has other contenders vying for the moniker. Australian winemakers, for instance, note that they too produce from the Prosecco grape and challenge Italy's claim of being the only original source.