Members of a committee of the European Parliament meeting in Brussels have come up with a compromise that may avert a simmering vodka war between traditional producers and new products on the market.
The European Commission made a proposal in 2005 that would have split the vodka category into several subsets based on ingredients and flavor. This caused a battle between the old guard and new producers entering the fast growing category. Countries such as Poland and Sweden were aligned in a bloc that said true vodka used only potatoes or barley in the distilling process. Other countries such as Sweden argued that other grains and sugar were traditional ingredients. Still another group, including France and Ireland made the case that any raw ingredient, including grapes, could be used to ferment vodka.
Under the proposed new rules that have gained support in the EU, vodka made with potatoes or grain will be allowed to be labeled simply as "vodka." Products using other raw ingredients can still be called vodka, but must list what they are made from on the label. A vote of the entire EU Parliament is expected in March.
Traditionally, vodka is a neutral spirit. For a product that is considered best when flavors and colors are stripped away is the distillation process, quite a few European drinks producers were heavily interested in the raging debate since vodka is the leading international spirit.