'Prosecco Police' Try to Decline Sparkling Wine 'ATM'

A bar in London pays homage to its previous occupant, a bank, with a whimsical wine dispenser, but Italian authorities are not amused

'Prosecco Police' Try to Decline Sparkling Wine 'ATM'
Account balance: 1 glass of bubbly (Courtesy of Vagabond Wines)
Feb 21, 2020

In a recent attempt to get Londoners back to their bubbly selves after the chilly, wet Dry January, a wine bar in central London created an ATM-style machine that dispenses Prosecco to passersby. Vagabond Wines runs eight wine bars in the city that sell over 100 wines by the glass, on tap, so for their latest act, they decided to set up an “Automated Bubbles Machine” (ABM) just outside the doors of one bar. (It's a novel twist on a classic wine service.) “The venue we took over used to be an old Santander banking hall,” Vagabond Wines managing director Stephen Finch told Unfiltered. “We wanted to do something that referred to the banking history in a fun, lighthearted and good-natured sort of way that tied into what we do.”

While folks lined up to take selfies with the machine and enjoy an automatic 5-oz. pour with their loaded Vagabond wine cards, the Prosecco consortium back in Italy got word—and prepared to pour cold water on the idea instead. Initially, Finch said, the dispenser was labeled “Automated Prosecco Machine,” but that sort of unorthodox packaging earned an error message according to the D.O.C.’s strict guidelines.

“The 'Prosecco police,' which I refer to the consortium [as], very quickly and aggressively sent us a cease and desist with all sorts of malicious threats,” Finch told us. “So while that stuff is ongoing we rebranded it to Automated Bubbles Machine instead of Automated Prosecco Machine.”

"The legal actions carried out by the Prosecco D.O.C. consortium aim at protecting the Prosecco D.O.C. denomination and prevent[ing] Vagabond Wine and others from using the term 'Prosecco' to sell tap sparkling wines," countered Luca Giavi, director of the consortium. "Prosecco D.O.C. wine can only be marketed and sold in bottles, each of which is marked with a state label that certifies its quality and authenticity."

(Further complicating things, after two days, the ABM was also moved inside, out of fear pedestrians looking to withdraw pounds might end up with a splash of "Prosecco" on their hands instead.)

Finch said he plans to take on the “Prosecco police” and lead a campaign to change the law that for the wine to be labeled Prosecco, it must be sold in bottles; the ABM conducts its transactions from a keg inside the machine.

Vagabond has had visitors come out of their way to use the gizmo, so naturally, Finch plans on expanding the idea to not only his other locations, but all ATMs. “We are pushing a petition to make all ATMs also dispense sparkling wine,” he said. So far, Finch is a bit short of the 2,000 signatures needed for the motion to move forward, but at least he's not working on a device that mints DRC.


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