Monday, July 10, 2006

By any other name, you're just as drunk?

It's the Global War Over Vodka:

Finland is to wage an emotionally-charged vodka battle over the next six months as it seeks to purify the definition of vodka.

The Finns have promised to use their presidency to try to ban alcohol from using the name vodka if it is not made from potatoes or grains.

Many European vodkas made from molasses, sugar beet or grapes would have to be re-named 'spirit drink' if an amended EU law on stricter alcohol definitions is passed in the autumn.

....Finland can count on the support of Germany and the so-called 'vodka belt' of Nordic and Baltic states and Poland in its mission to protect the integrity of its national drink.

Finnish MEP Alexander Stubb said the matter was "an issue of national pride".

....British companies warned last week that changing the definition of vodka would either force up the price of certain brands as they switched raw ingredients or require producers to change their labels.

....The European Commission dismissed the claim as "ludicrous" and said it did not want to change the definition of existing vodkas.

But the final decision lies in the hands of the European Parliament and 25 national governments, all with their own vested interests at heart.

"The Nordics and their allies are waging a European vodka war," argued British Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson.

"This is blatant protectionism aimed at ring-fencing their own brands and seizing the market share enjoyed by the non-grain and potato based vodkas."

Stevenson — who staged a blind vodka challenge in the European Parliament — said only one in 10 MEPs and eurocrats had been able to tell the difference between 12 grape and potato-based vodkas.

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