Italians are in a huff about the way British pubs serve prosecco

Italian prosecco makers’ anger is bubbling over at British pubs and wine bars for serving their popular sparkling wine out of a tap instead of a bottle. They claim that a European Union regulation from 2009 makes it illegal to serve prosecco the wrong way. If the practice is not stopped, they say, the pubs should be prosecuted for fraud and fined.

According to data compiled by the Italian Economic Wine Observatory, prosecco outsold champagne globally (pdf) for the first time ever last year, 307 million bottles to 304. Prosecco is also increasingly popular in the US (paywall), especially among millennials. A typical bottle of prosecco costs only $12 or so, much cheaper than champagne. Generally, it has a sugary taste and is sweeter than most champagne.

The tiff might seem like a whole lot of nothing, but Britain is the world’s largest importer of prosecco. And the industry is so important to the Italian economy that government officials are backing the winemakers’ threats. Michele Anzaldi, an Italian MP, told The Telegraph that “the government will act immediately, in conjunction with the EU, against the United Kingdom and the incorrect serving of prosecco in British pubs.”

The Italian winemakers say that they are protecting consumers by ensuring that the sparkling wine is consumed properly. But bar owners argue that many customers prefer the ease and convenience of buying a glass of prosecco from a tap, instead of having to purchase a whole bottle.

Italy wants the UK’s Food Standards Agency to enforce the regulations. At press time, Italy has not yet sued Britain over alcohol consumption methods.

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