Vodka may go scotch way!


This article is about having a product marketed from the right origin with the correct generic name so that customers can have the right choice drink and the imitations are not passed off as genuine though names may be identical. Scotch, champagne, vodka etc., are such spirits that they can be called with the same names if the origin is from Scotland, France, Finland respectively. It is something like ‘Basmati’ rice in Indian which is genuine if it is grown in the Doon Valley and not in Andhra.

The concerned countries are taking suitable action to prevent frauds with identical at the highest level of trade forums and even involving the Governments. Here we are discussing the case of Vodka. If the place of origin is right then come all other marketing gimmicks.

Drinkers with refined palates sometimes struggle to distinguish cheap from paint-stripper. Soon, if Finland has its way, it will be even harder to tell the difference. The Nordic vodka superpower is planning to use its six-month presidency of the European Union to ban many brands from using the ‘vodka’ appellation forcing them to be labeled as ‘spirit dink’ or even ‘white spirit drink’. The Finns, who take the helm of the EU next month, are convinced that only vodka made from potatoes or grain is worthy of the name and want to amend EU law. Up to one-third of British-produced vodka would have to be re-named or labeled with some other name if the amended EU law is passed in the autumn.

The Finnish secretary for agriculture wants to promote the traditional approach to the definition of vodka and says this is something they feel strongly about.

Under the proposal, British brands such as Ciroc, Moskova, Red Square and Kirov, as well as many super market and pub-chain vodkas, would have to be reclassified because they are not made from potato or grain.

Diageo, the global drinks producer, said its Ciroc brand, made from French grapes and aimed at affluent young professionals, would be hard hit. The British people going into a bar may not be asking for a white spirit-martini but their familiar brands said the director of EC corporate relations.

Britain is not alone in the battle for the spirit of Europe. The continent is spilt along a fault-line pitting ‘vodka liberalizers’ such as Britain, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, which refine vodka from molasses, grapes and sugar beetagainst ‘vodka purists’.

Finland can count on support from Germany, Poland and the ‘vodka belt’ of Nordic and Baltic states.

“Vodka has a heritage,� said Alexander Stubb, a Finnish MEP. Vodka cannot be treated like a second class spirit. It’s like telling a Scotsman to produce whisky from whatever basic material other than malt.

Struan Stevenson, a British Conservative MEP, accuses the Nordics of ‘waging a European vodka war’. Last week Stevenson staged a blind vodka challenge in the European parliament and found only one in 10 MEP and Eurocrats could tell the difference between grape and potato-based vodkas.

Finally it appears some middle line solution can come out of all the genuine product arguments. But one thing is certain that people really patronize spirits based on their personal tastes and liking and not because of any particular names. The French has taken objection for calling Indian made sparkling wine as champagne. Even when it is called ‘sparkling wine’ its consumption in world markets has not affected and moreover the product is exported to France and the connoisseurs relish the taste though France is the home of champagne.

The marketers of the spirits need not worry too much on name changes but they must ensure that their usual marketing techniques for such products continue with the same “spirit�.