The Slovenia Times

Sobering Effects



During its pre-accession negotiations with the European Union, Hungary registered, thereby obtaining exclusive rights over, the naming of a wine variety called tokaj, named after it's Tokaj region. Allegedly, the Hungarian lobbying was heavily backed by French winegrowers, who had purchased a substantial number of Hungarian vineyards in recent years. It now appears that while Slovenian winegrowers will have to face facts and rename the 2004 vintage, the Italian producers have succeeded in negotiating a transitional period of two years, during which time they will have the right to use the name tocai furlanino (Friulian tokaj). Have Slovenian negotiators and winegrowers fallen asleep and missed the boat? The majority of Slovenian tokaj is produced in the Brda region, with the remainder being produced in the Vipava Valley and the Kras region. After rebula and chardonnay, tokaj is the third most-widely produced wine in Brda. Since the composition of the Slovenian tokaj has little in common with the Hungarian variety (the former being dry and sparkling and the latter oily and sweet), the Slovenian producers - na?ve as it may sound - could not believe that they would really have to give up the use of the name, despite repeated warnings from the Ministry of Agriculture. The oenologist, Julij Nemanic, is critical of the lack of a clear strategy and cooperation in the sector and hopes that something can still be achieved through negotiation in Brussels. Silvan Persolja, the director of the Goriska Brda wine cooperative, says that they had not, until now, searched for a new name because they were convinced that, together with the Italians, who produce 90 percent of Friulian tokaj, they would find a solution. However, things seem to have turned out differently and it is now high time to choose a new name. The dilemma over the new name has caused a great stir. Contrasting opinions have emerged between various wine producers. Optimists console themselves by saying: "It is the quality that counts, not the name!" Others have become concerned that the oily, Hungarian variety of tokaj may swamp its dry Slovenian counterpart. Proposals for the new brand name range from the two most favoured - sauvignon vert (green sauvignon) and sauvignonnase - to the amusing play on words, takoj (meaning immediately or right away in Slovene). The producers would, of course, prefer a name that would cause the least confusion among consumers. While supporting by their combined expertise, Mr Persolja emphasized the great need for better communication among Slovenian winegrowers. Nevertheless, irrespective of the choice of name, Brussels' decision will certainly be a severe blow for the Slovenian producers of tokaj, with some fearing a drop in sales of at least 50 percent. The winegrowers of Brda lack the financial resources needed for the re-branding and promotion of tokaj. Furthermore, costly promotion of the existing brands will be required in order to partially compensate for the loss. In the meantime, Hungary will proudly continue to sing its national anthem: "Thou hast made nectar drip out of the vines of Tokaj!"


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