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Italians stuck with five million bottles over name debate

Published:  23 July, 2008

By Nicolas Belfrage MW & Franco Ziliani

Readers of these pages will recall how a few months ago we reported that the EU Commission had ruled that no member nation could use the name Tokay', or soundalikes, for wine except the Hungarians, giving several years' notice before putting the ruling into effect.

The Alsatians prepared far in advance by switching from Tokay d'Alsace' to Tokay Pinot Gris', which, following the EU ruling, will now be known simply as Pinot Gris. The Italians of Friuli, ostrich-like, preferred the head-in-the-sand technique of pretending it wasn't happening, and at the 11th hour came up with a substitute in the form of the second half of the traditional name Tocai Friulano': plain Friulano.

Now, with time almost run out, a ruling has come down from a tribunal in Latium saying that the name Friulano on its own is not acceptable because it fails to furnish adequate juridicial bases' (a fine bit of gobbledygook) and in any case is confusing for consumers who would not know whether the new name referred to a grape or a place.

The result? About five million bottles un-named and unable to be sold. Certain administrative tribunals are indeed creating difficulties for those who would defend the wine sector,' commented minister of agriculture Paolo de Castro. The irony is that these producers are having to compete with others from outside the EU - in Argentina or Australia - who continue to sell "Tocai" on international markets.'

The Latium decision confirms that the rush with which the Friuli region set about promoting Friulano was

ill-judged, not least because it pre-dates the final decision on the use of the name Tocai by the European Court.