The Italian government is launching infringement proceedings against Slovenia to defend the authenticity of its famous, geographically protected balsamic vinegar.
Relations between the two countries soured last year when Slovenia notified the European Commission of its plans to “standardize” vinegar production, essentially marketing any wine vinegar mixed with concentrated fruit juice or must as “balsamic vinegar.”
Expression aceto balsamico from Modena (balsamic vinegar of Modena) has been in force since 2009 and can only be used by producers in Modena and the Emilia-Romagna region.
Italy believes that Slovenia’s move threatens its tradition of excellence in Modena balsamic vinegar and a market worth approximately one billion euros.
The battle over balsamic vinegar has become a priority for the government under Prime Minister Mario Draghi, which has given the public prosecutor the green light to start the process. The first step requires consultation with the Commission before the case is referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), if necessary.
“After months of waiting and worrying, we finally see a ray of light,” said Mariangela Grosoli, president of the Consortium for the Protection of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena.
Italian Agriculture Minister Stefano Patuanelli said last year that protecting Italian wine and food was a priority and that the government would do everything to defend domestic produce from “illegal attacks”.
But we will see how successful the move against Slovenia will be. In 2019, Italian balsamic vinegar producers lost a legal action to prevent a German company from using the names aceto or balsamic vinegar to market their vinegar products. The German company labeled its products with terms balsamic vinegar and Deutscher balsamic vinegar (German balsamic).
However, the CJEU ruled that it is a protected expression aceto balsamico from Modena “does not cover the use of non-geographic individual terms”. The court found that the name aceto is common and that balsamic vinegar is an adjective commonly used to refer to a vinegar with a bitter-sweet taste. Therefore, while the brand aceto balsamico from Modena can only be used by manufacturers within a certain geographical area, there were no such restrictions balsamic vinegar alone.