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Italy Isn't Happy with Crimea's Counterfeit Prosecco

After fighting the menace of on-tap Prosecco in the UK, Italian winemakers are now setting their sights on the Black Sea region, where they claim sparkling wine counterfeits are on the rise.
Photo via Flickr user bafs

If there's one thing that Italians don't fuck around about, it's their culinary heritage. We know already that they don't take too kindly to Brits pouring their precious Prosecco from a tap, violating the sanctity of their bubbly in the process.

But at least that was genuine Prosecco that was produced in Italy, even if the Italians believe it loses its legal ability to be called that when it goes from bottle to draught.

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Like many products in Italy and across Europe, Prosecco is a protected designation of origin (PDO) product—also known as Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC)—meaning that not just anyone can make it and call it Prosecco. Same deal with Black Forest ham, Cornish pasties, and even Champagne.

READ: UK Pubs Are Treating Prosecco Like Beer, And Italy Is Pissed

But don't tell that to winemakers in the Crimea, where knockoff Prosecco commands a cheaper price and apparently flows like water. And especially with Italy's sparkling wine market on the up-and-up—the country exported approximately 320 million bottles last year—winemakers are keen on plugging up any holes that could hurt their bottom lines.

Roberto Moncalvo, president of Italian farmers organization Coldiretti, has claimed that counterfeit food items like Crimean Prosecco—as well as Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano cheeses produced in the US—cost Italy up to 300,000 jobs and 60 billion euros each year. "The true enemies abroad are the low-cost imitations of national (Italian) foods that don't have any ties with the production system of the country," he said.

Domenico Bosco, Coldiretti's wine representative, told Newsweek that PDOs are integral to "trade and the freedom of the consumers," adding: "We hope that the authorities will take appropriate measures to stop this situation which is unpleasant for our producers as well as for the consumers of Crimea."

Indeed, those producers could soon start to feel the hurt of Prosecco imposters from the Black Sea—and their bottom lines aren't small. During the first nine months of 2014, sparkling wine sales rose 24 percent over the previous year in Italy; and, according to Coldiretti, France imported more Italian wine than Italy did Champagne.

Keep that in mind the next time you're handed a tall glass of spumante fresh from the tap in London, or a remarkably inexpensive bottle of bubbly on your spring holiday in Sevastopol.