Fri 22 Jun 2007
This just in: According to The New York Times, the European Parliament decided that “traditional vodka can be made only from grain or potatoes.” Countries with a heritage of vodka-producing, including Sweden, Finland and Poland, “had pushed for rules that would have included molasses among the ingredients allowed.” The parliament reached a compromise — which only Poland voted against — that vodka may be made from other ingredients than grain or potatoes “if their composition and origin are clearly indicated on the label,” the implication being that vodka producers in Poland want to use molasses in vodka without indicating it on labels.
Molasses! Think of it. If you ferment molasses and distill it, what do you get? Bad rum! The best rums are made directly from pure cane juice, not cane juice rendered into molasses. Why does Poland want to get into that business? And how are vodka aficionados going to feel when they pick up a highly hyped new vodka named something like “Iconic Snow” or “Icy Freeze” and the label states: “Made from Molasses in Krakow”?
One feels similarly funny about Ciroc, the French vodka made from grapes, and not just grapes but “fine French grapes” (they’re from Gaillac) and not just “fine French grapes” but “snap frost” grapes picked, we are told, just after the first “snap frost.” (What?) But think of it. Vodka made from distilled grapes? Isn’t that, like, you know, grappa? (A highly refined grappa, to be sure.)
Technically speaking, vodka is defined as an odorless, flavorless white spirit. You could make it from rutabagas, but traditionally and practically and now by law in Europe, vodka must be made from potatoes or grain, unless stated otherwise on the label. What’s next for those accommodating madcaps in the EU? A ruling that says that sherry can only be made from real grapes in Jerez unless stated otherwise on the label? That Calvados can be made only from apples in Normandy unless stated otherwise on the label?
Ironically, the EU recently honored the Napa Valley as the only protected American appellation in Europe, unless, I suppose, otherwise indicated on the label.
The picture of grain is a Getty image taken from nattierosewrites.com. The molasses label is from clendening.kumc.edu.