Okay, European readers, maybe you can help me understand something.
Several northern European countries lobbied the European Parliament to restrict vodka ingredients to the traditional potatoes and grain. It seems that some producers have been getting creative with their ingredients, using things like grapes, beets, and sugar cane (guilty as charged) to make their “vodkas.” Countries in the Vodka Belt (like Finland, Poland, and Sweden) argued that a clear line should be drawn as to what qualifies as vodka.
This week, the Parliament voted to reject a tightening of the definition of vodka. As long as the ingredients are listed on the label, the resulting product can still be marketed as vodka. And pretty much any agricultural product can be used to make it. Kind of like how a martini is anything served in a martini glass. Whatever happened to gin, anyway?
So, I’m confused because I thought the Europeans were all about standards. Champagne can’t be made from potatoes. It must be made from grapes. Not just any grapes, but grapes grown in a very small geographic area. There must be not only bubbles, but the bubbles must originate only from flatulent Frenchmen. Spaniards will not suffice. That’s what Cava is for.
The Scots were able to convince the Parliament to safeguard the ingredients and techniques for Scotch, so I’m not precisely sure why the European Vodka Alliance said that vodka had “no unique heritage” to merit a standard. Am I missing something? How is vodka different from any other spirit with a spirited history? Or is it that no one cares about the countries in the Vodka Belt?
Obviously, this begs the question: What is vodka? More importantly, how do we educate discerning college students about the differences between the myriad vodkas? Does anything clear, alcoholic, with no flavor whatsoever pass for vodka these days? If so, rock on. I can’t wait to see where enterprising distilleries go with this. We’ll need a whole new marketing campaign. Some thoughts:
- For agave vodka: It’s Just Like Tequila, but Vodka
- For grape vodka: Kisses Cheaper than Wine
- Or the catch-all slogan: Vodka: It Gets you Drunk
I always assumed, right or wrong, that Europeans had better standards than Americans for things like food, fashion, quality of life, etc. That their sense of history and tradition trumped the potential profit that could be made by ignoring those things. But this just proves that they suck just as badly as Americans. Little by little, the pedestal is crumbling.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some cat urine to distill.