Italy has launched a legal battle with Slovenia over balsamic vinegar

Balsamic vinegar/ Photo Costfoto / ddp USA / Profimedia

The Italian government is launching infringement proceedings against Slovenia in an attempt to defend the authenticity of its famous, geographically protected balsamic vinegar, writes "The Guardian".

Relations between the two countries cooled last year when Slovenia notified the European Commission of its plans to "standardize" its vinegar production, essentially requiring it to sell any wine vinegar mixed with concentrated fruit juice or must as "balsamic vinegar."

The term "aceto balsamico di Modena" (balsamic vinegar of Modena) has existed since 2009 and can only be used by producers in Modena and the Emilia-Romagna region.

Italy sees Slovenia's move as a threat to its tradition of excellence with balsamic vinegar of Modena and to a market worth around 1 billion euros.

The battle over balsamic vinegar has become a priority for the government led by outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi, which has given the public prosecutor the green light to open proceedings. The first step requires consultation with the commission before, if necessary, submitting the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

"After months of waiting and worrying, we finally see a ray of light," said Mariangela Grossoli, president of the Consortium for the Protection of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena.

Italy's agriculture minister, Stefano Patuanelli, said last year that protecting Italian wine and food was a priority and that the government would do everything to protect the country's products from "illegal attacks".

However, it remains to be seen how successful the move will be against Slovenia. In 2019, Italian balsamic vinegar producers lost a legal battle to prevent a German company from using the names aceto or aceto balsamico to market its vinegar products. The German business labeled its products with the terms balsamico and Deutscher balsamico (German balsamico).

But the CJEU ruled that the protected term aceto balsamico di Modena "does not apply to the use of non-geographically specific terms". The court found that the name aceto was common and that balsamic was an adjective commonly used to refer to vinegar with a bitter-sweet taste. Therefore, although the trademark aceto balsamico di Modena could only be used by producers in a certain geographical area, there were no such restrictions for aceto balsamico alone.

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