Croatian winemakers upset by EU label rules

Tue Apr 23, 2013 8:31am EDT
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By Zoran Radosavljevic

JELSA, Croatia (Reuters) - For Croatian winemakers, dreams of European Union market bounty came crashing down after recent trade bans exposed them to the hurdles which await agricultural greenhorns in the wealthy bloc.

In the face of strict appellation and protection rules in the EU, which Croatia joins on July 1, tradition and local pride had to give way, although local winemakers say it's not over yet.

The reality check came in March, when the agriculture ministry suddenly announced the traditional sweet dessert wine known as prosek could no longer be sold under its name.

Prosek was considered too similar to Italy's prosecco, which enjoys protected status under the same EU rules which say wine labeled champagne must be made in the Champagne region of France.

Only 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.

The news prompted some local winemakers to say "if they want a wine war, they'll get it", while Andro Tomic, a major wine and prosek producer from Jelsa on the southern island of Hvar, said Croatia was largely to blame for its own failure.

"We had had so much time and could have done a lot more but the ministry just did not consult us," Tomic said.

"The way things are going, who knows what else is in store for us," he told Reuters in his wine cellar, a majestic building made of stone blocks where tourists sip and buy his reds, whites, roses and dessert wines.   Continued...

Oak barrels line the walls of a wine cellar in Ilok, the centre of a famous wine growing region in eastern Croatia on September 23, 2004. REUTERS/Nikola Solic