Sweet or sparkling wine? Croatia and Italy, countries that are proud of the quality and authenticity of their wine and many other products. If you are a wine lover or someone who likes to try different things when on the trip, and if you traveled to both Croatia and Italy you might have found yourself in a confusing situation ordering prosecco or prošek.
Even the two names sound pretty much the same, these products are very different. Generally speaking, prosecco (prəˈsɛkoʊ) is wine made from grapes. It resembles sparkling wine, but again it is not. Croatian prošek (pro-shek) is a dessert wine made from local grape varieties. Their origins, ways of production, the products themselves differ quite a lot from each other.
Prošek is a sweet wine with a controlled origin from coastal Croatia. The proof of its early origins goes back to 303 AD, with Emperor Diocletian mentioning this unique product.
For making a high-quality prošek it takes 7 times more grapes, in comparison with wine production. This is the reason why in the past it was always produced in small quantities and therefore kept for special occasions.
The production of prošek is based on the passito method. After regular harvesting, overripe grapes are collected and dried on straw or plastic substrates for approximately 1 week. The loss of the liquid raises the amount of sugar and further fermentation continues until the alcohol level is at 15%. This is the minimum for the production of a good quality Prošek.
The most commonly used grape sorts are Bogdanuša, Maraština, and Vugava, with added smaller amounts of other, mostly local varieties.
Prošek produced from Bogdanuša is characterized by light and lively notes, while prošek made out of Vugava is reminiscent of sweet sherry. The most prominent in quality are those made from Plavac Mali, and Bogdanuša and Vugava cuvée.
If we had to compare it, Prošek most closely resembles Santoo - a traditional wine from Tuscany. The product is thick, almost like a liqueur, and varies in colors from dark gold to dark red and brown.
Prosecco is an Italian, geographically protected white wine originating from nine provinces in the Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions. It was named after the village of Prosecco, and it is produced from the grapes of the same name, which was later renamed Glera.
Prosecco is usually produced as sparkling (spumante) or semi-sparkling (frizzante) wine, but it falls into the category of prosecco as a still wine (tranquillo) as well.
For the production of quality Prosecco, the Charmat - Martinotti method is usually used, where the wine ferments for a period of up to about 9 months (Charmat Lungo). To be eligible, 15% of Prosecco wine must be a mixture of Verdisa, Bianchette Trevigiane, Perere, Chardonnay, Pinot Bianca, Pinot Grigio or Pinot Noir (vinified white). The amount of alcohol is usually around 11 - 12%. Sparkling wine is light in texture and its light golden color.
When Croatia joined the European Union in 2013, the European Commission raised the issue of using the name "prošek" as it recalls a name that is already protected by Italy (prosecco). However, according to the provisions of the Ministry of Agriculture, the name "prošek" may still be in use after Croatia's accession to the European Union. This resolution stopped the discussion about the new potential name which, as everyone agreed, will hardly describe the product that is known as prošek since the start of its production in the 19th century.
One thing is certain, these two names will continue to be the subject of misunderstandings for many travelers and wine lovers, so pay attention to the correct pronunciation because in the end - the names are similar but not the same.
Prošek is still a very local and traditional drink that very few guests know about. On the other side, there are locals who still keep good bottles for special occasions and always have a small glass of prošek after Sunday lunch. This is, of course, because Dalmatians find prošek as an excellent remedy for different conditions and they all swear in the positive effects it brings.
On the side of confusion, these two drinks are in many ways different, and in fact, each of these two names originates from different periods and other reasons, and as such have every right to be used in their traditional form.
And as per confusion, expect the unexpected! Mistakes bring new experiences, revelations or cold served prosecco, I mean prošek ;)