The Italian government says Slovenian plans to ‘standardise’ use of name threatens traditional balsamic vinegar producers in Modena.
The term aceto balsamico di Modena has been in place since 2009. It is only allowed to be used by producers in Modena and the region of Emilia-Romagna. Italy sees Slovenia’s move to ‘standardise’ its vinegar production – marketing any wine vinegar mixed with concentrated fruit juice or must as “balsamic vinegar – as a threat to an Italian tradition.
As a result, the Italian government is launching infringement proceedings against Slovenia. Their aim is to defend the authenticity and excellence of its geographically protected balsamic vinegar. The Modena balsamic vinegar market is currently worth around €1billion.
The Italian government is launching infringement proceedings against Slovenia following the latter’s notification to the European Commission of its standardisation plans.
The balsamic battle became a priority for the government led by the prime minister, Mario Draghi. He has given the go-ahead for the state attorney to start proceedings. Initially, there needs to be a consultation with the commission before. If further action is required, then the case will go to the court of justice of the European Union (CJEU).
“After months of waiting and worrying, we finally see a glimmer of light,” said Mariangela Grosoli, the president of the consortium for the protection of balsamic vinegar of Modena.
Italy’s agriculture minister, Stefano Patuanelli, said last year that the protection of Italian wine and food was a priority and the government would do everything to defend the country’s produce from “illicit attacks”.
Not the first time Italy sought to protect balsamic vinegar
In 2019, Italian balsamic vinegar producers lost a legal challengee to prevent a German company from using the names aceto or aceto balsamico to market its vinegar products. The CJEU ruled the protected term aceto balsamico di Modena “does not extend to the use of non-geographical individual terms”.
The court determined aceto is common for vinegar. Also, balsamico is an adjective commonly used as a reference to a vinegar with a bittersweet flavour. Therefore, while the trademark aceto balsamico di Modena can only be used by producers within a specific geographical area, there were no such restrictions on aceto balsamico alone.
Italy has also been battling with Croatia over prošek wine, claiming the name is too similar to prosecco. Croatia has argued consumers can tell the difference between the two. And not only that, their wine has a history of at least 2,000 years.