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Swiss IGP for exclusive use of the word "Absinthe"


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#1 Gwydion Stone

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Posted 27 May 2010 - 10:00 AM

I'm copying and attaching a letter, received yesterday morning from David Nathan-Maister, who is the only person to whom I humbly defer on the topic of absinthe. I may occasionally defer to others, but not humbly. ;) David, owner of Oxygenée Ltd., is arguably the most well-respected absinthe expert in the world. If you're an absinthe producer—or have even the vaguest plan to become an absinthe producer—you owe him a debt of gratitude, whether you know it or not.

So, if you're an absinthe producer—or have even the vaguest plan to become an absinthe producer—and you have the means to respond, I strongly urge you to do so.

If you feel you don't have a dog in this fight, you're mistaken. The Swiss government is well-known for exerting pressure where needed in order to protect their national identity and products associated with it. If this measure passes—and it will if unopposed—you can expect the fight to come to your door fairly soon. I just spoke with David this morning, and I assure you the sense of urgency in the letter below is not exaggerated.


May 23, 2010

Dear Absinthe Producer,

On March 31, 2010, the Swiss Interprofession filed for an IGP (Indication de Provenance Géographique) for the Val-de-Travers that specifically and independently protects not only the words the words "La Bleue", but also "Absinthe"and "Fée Verte".

Switzerland and the European Union are bound by several treaties, including the Agreement on Exchange of Agricultural Products dated April 30, 2002, and in particular, Appendix 8 relating to Wines and Spirits. As a result, E.U. producers will soon no longer be able to use the word "absinthe" as a product description. It's likely that this restriction would be extended to US producers (and in practice distributors) as well.

We strongly feel this action is inappropriate, as the word "absinthe" itself refers to a plant, and a type of liquor historically derived from it. The term "absinthe" does not refer to a specific region of Switzerland, nor does it imply that absinthe cannot be produced outside of the Val-de-Travers, as history proves that absinthe (including absinthe of the highest quality) was and is produced in other countries, including France, Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, the USA and others. From the Belle Epoque through the present day, the Val de Travers has in fact accounted for only a tiny fraction of worldwide absinthe production, and in the modern era only an infinitesimally small fraction of green absinthe production.

Our legal counsel has indicated this IGP will be approved unless swift action is taken to oppose it within 90 days of the filing date, which is less than 30 days from the time this letter was written.

The consequences of this IGP being adopted unmodified will be catastrophic for absinthe producers outside the Val de Travers, and also for those companies in Europe and the US which distribute and sell non-Val de Travers absinthes.


There is some local opposition to the IGP in Switzerland itself from absinthe producers outside the Val de Travers, but if this is successful it may simply lead to the IGP being modified to include all Switzerland - no use at all to producers elsewhere. What is needed is urgent and concerted action from producers and distributors worldwide to stop this historical and geographic travesty in its tracks.

We are writing this letter to request your urgent support to fight this action. Without adequate support, E.U. producers will no longer be free to use terms like "Absinthe" and "Fée Verte". Our legal counsel is confident that the Swiss petition can be defeated, but there is no time for delay.

You may be aware that this legal team successfully overturned the French decree on fenchone and pinocamphone recently, and we have complete confidence in their professionalism and ability to defeat this matter.

We are asking for your participation, which is requested in the amount of one thousand Euros (€ 1.000,00). Your contribution will provide the support we need to fight this petition, and no more will be asked of you. The money will go directly to the account of the legal team, who have agreed to undertake this work at a substantially reduced tariff. Any surplus funds received will be returned by them to the donors on a pro-rata basis.

Please forward payment directly to NIXON PEABODY, our legal representatives at the coordinates below, reference the phrase "ABSINTHE IGP" together with your name and business when making payment, and inform us of your payment via email. Please advise if you have any questions, but please do so quickly, as we have less than 30 days to respond.

The clock is ticking, and time is running out. If everyone sits on their hands and hopes for the best, the IGP will be approved. We must act now, with the greatest urgency to stop this. Please join this urgent campaign immediately.

Sincerely,

Ted A. Breaux tabreaux@gmail.com
David Nathan-Maister david@oxygenee.com

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Publication de la demande d'IGP pour l'Absinthe,la Fée verte et La Bleue
Berne, 31.03.2010

L'Office fédéral de l'agriculture publie aujourd'hui dans la Feuille officielle suisse du commerce, la demande d'enregistrement en indication géographique protégée (IGP) des dénominations «Absinthe», «Fée verte» et «La Bleue» .


Les trois dénominations désignent un seul et même produit, une boisson spiritueuse élaborée à partir d'alcool éthylique d'origine agricole, d'eau et d'un mélange spécifique de plantes. Leur enregistrement comme IGP a notamment pour objectif d'éviter les imitations et usurpations et de protéger tant la renommée que l'originalité du produit. La zone géographique de transformation est le district du Val-de-Travers dans le canton de Neuchâtel .

Né dans le Val-de-Travers à la fin du XVIIIe siècle, ce produit a rapidement connu un succès important, qui a contribué au développement économique de cette région. Au-delà de sa valeur gustative intrinsèque, ce produit doit également sa notoriété à plusieurs autres éléments, notamment aux rites complexes qui accompagnent sa dégustation ainsi qu'à la passion qu'ont suscité ses supposés vertus et méfaits. Même la période de prohibition, qui a duré de 1910 à 2005, n'a pas suffi à étouffer le lien unissant ce produit avec son terroir du Val-de-Travers. La réputation de l'Absinthe n'a cessé de croître, au gré de son histoire mouvementée et des mythes qui l'entourent .

Le registre des appellations d'origine ou des indications géographiques permet de protéger les noms géographiques ou traditionnels désignant des produits agricoles et des produits agricoles transformés dont l'identité et les principales caractéristiques sont déterminées par leur origine géographique. Lorsqu'un nom est protégé, son utilisation est réservée aux producteurs de l'aire géographique définie, pour autant que ceux-ci respectent un cahier des charges précis. La publication des demandes d'enregistrement est soumise à une enquête publique. Toute personne justifiant d'un intérêt ainsi que les cantons peuvent s'opposer à l'enregistrement pendant un délai de trois mois .

Le registre fédéral des appellations d'origine et indications géographiques compte actuellement 27 enregistrements: 19 AOC et 8 IGP. La documentation est disponible sous www.blw.admin.ch (Thèmes > Production et ventes > Désignation des produits et promotion des ventes > Appellations d'origine) .



Google translation (with a little fixing up):

Publication of the application for PGI Absinthe, the Green Fairy and The Blue
Berne, 3-31-2010

The Federal Office of Agriculture published today in the Swiss Official Gazette of Commerce, the application for registration of protected geographical indication (PGI) of the names "Absinthe", "Fée Verte" and "La Bleue".

The three names designate a single product, a spirit drink produced from ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin, water and a mixture of specific plants. Their recording as PGI's objectives is to avoid imitation and theft and to protect the reputation as the original product. The geographical area of transformation is the district of Val-de-Travers in the canton of Neuchatel.

Born in Val-de-Travers in the late eighteenth century, this product has quickly gained an important success that has contributed to economic development in this region. Beyond its intrinsic flavor characteristics, this product also owes its fame to several factors, including the complex rituals that accompany the tasting and the passion that prompted its supposed virtues and evils. Even the period of prohibition, which lasted from 1910 to 2005, was not enough to stifle the link between the product and its terroir of Val-de-Travers. Absinthe's reputation has grown steadily, according to her turbulent history and myths surrounding it.

The register of appellations of origin or geographical indications can protect geographical or traditional designating agricultural products and processed agricultural products whose identity and key characteristics are determined by their geographical origin. When a name is protected, its use is limited to producers of the defined geographical area, provided that they meet a set of specifications. The publication of applications for registration shall be subject to a public inquiry. Any person with a legitimate interest and the townships may oppose the registration for a period of three months.

The federal register of protected designations of origin and geographical indications currently records 27 registrations: 19 AOC and 8 IPG. The documentation is available at: www.blw.admin.ch (Themes> Production and Sales> Description of products and sales promotion> Appellations of Origin).


Maker of Marteau Absinthe
Master Distiller, Gnostalgic Spirits Distillery
www.absinthemarteau.com
Confessions of an Absinthiste


#2 Zman (Marc Bernhard)

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Posted 27 May 2010 - 10:10 AM

Wow.

If you don't like anise at all, you're not likely to care for any decent absinthe, as absinthe is an anise flavored drink. It's kind of like asking if there are any good beers that don't taste like hops or malt.----Hiram

Marc Bernhard, owner and Master Distiller of Pacific Distillery LLC
Maker of Pacifique Absinthe and Voyager Single Batch Distilled Gin
Woodinville, WA, USA
www.pacificdistillery.com


#3 Jen Dixon

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Posted 27 May 2010 - 10:17 AM

Wow indeed. Seems to me that it would be like trying to protect the word 'cheese' and instead of Gloucester.
What a mess. A big, hairy, insane mess.
I'm Jen, artist and dork. I used to run an absinthe shop. You can also find me at:
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#4 Touch-Money

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Posted 27 May 2010 - 10:24 AM

Is there anything us non-producers can do? I realize this letter was aimed at those that distill absinthe, but if there is anything I or any of the rest of us can do please let us know ASAP!
“Alcohol is the anesthesia by which we endure the operation of life.” - George Bernard Shaw

#5 Zman (Marc Bernhard)

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Posted 27 May 2010 - 10:57 AM

Boycott.

If you don't like anise at all, you're not likely to care for any decent absinthe, as absinthe is an anise flavored drink. It's kind of like asking if there are any good beers that don't taste like hops or malt.----Hiram

Marc Bernhard, owner and Master Distiller of Pacific Distillery LLC
Maker of Pacifique Absinthe and Voyager Single Batch Distilled Gin
Woodinville, WA, USA
www.pacificdistillery.com


#6 Gwydion Stone

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Posted 27 May 2010 - 11:09 AM

Agreed.

Maker of Marteau Absinthe
Master Distiller, Gnostalgic Spirits Distillery
www.absinthemarteau.com
Confessions of an Absinthiste


#7 Touch-Money

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Posted 27 May 2010 - 11:13 AM

Ok no more Swiss brands for me!
“Alcohol is the anesthesia by which we endure the operation of life.” - George Bernard Shaw

#8 precenphix

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Posted 27 May 2010 - 11:18 AM

I just plunked down some coin for a bottle each of Duplais Verte and Blanche specifically because they fall outside this attempt at cultural robbery. This will be the only Swiss absinthe I will buy until this matter is resolved.
Those with knowledge easily sense the truth of things. Those with egos built up on rumor and fancy, tend to maintain a hard line. - Tatan (Evan Camomile)

#9 Zman (Marc Bernhard)

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Posted 27 May 2010 - 11:22 AM

I will be contributing my 1000 Euros.

If you don't like anise at all, you're not likely to care for any decent absinthe, as absinthe is an anise flavored drink. It's kind of like asking if there are any good beers that don't taste like hops or malt.----Hiram

Marc Bernhard, owner and Master Distiller of Pacific Distillery LLC
Maker of Pacifique Absinthe and Voyager Single Batch Distilled Gin
Woodinville, WA, USA
www.pacificdistillery.com


#10 techdiver

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Posted 27 May 2010 - 12:32 PM

A far cry from the initial "praise".

#11 rob fritz

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Posted 27 May 2010 - 12:48 PM

Not only a boycott, but the distibutors need to stop distributing and isolate all Swiss absinthe so the fight becomes very strong from within.

#12 Ron

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Posted 27 May 2010 - 01:01 PM

A far cry from the initial "praise".

I don't think Aggelos knew the extent of what the VdT gang were up to.
Every hour is green hour. -Hedonmonkey

Sometimes bad just gets so bad that it breaks thru to the other side and becomes good. - Phoenix

#13 Gwydion Stone

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Posted 27 May 2010 - 04:34 PM

Ok no more Swiss brands for me!

There is actually opposition by some Swiss distillers, such as Matter. The only producers benefited by this are those in the Val de Travers:

Distillerie Artemisia
Claude-Alain Bugnon
1er Mars 10 – 2108 COUVET
Tél. +41 32 863 36 46
www.absinthe-suisse.com

Absinthe Kübler SA
Yves Kübler
Rue du Château 7 – 2112 MÔTIERS
Tél. +41 32 861 14 69
www.blackmint.ch

Bovet Racine Sàrl
Racine Christophe
Rue du Temple 46
2114 Fleurier
Tél. +41 (0)78 662 40 63
Fax: +41(0)32 861 10 53


Absintherie Celle à Guilloud
Grand-Rue 29
2114 Fleurier
Tél. 079/568.52.35
www.absinthecelleaguilloud.ch


La Valote Sàrl
Willy Bovet
Rue de la Gare 5 – 2112 MÔTIERS
Tél. +41 32 861 10 82
www.absinthe-lavalote.ch


Distab Sàrl
Pierre-André Stauffer
Grand'Rue 9 – 2108 COUVET
Tél. +41 32 863 20 36
www.distab.ch


Distival Sàrl
Thierry Guizzardi
La Raisse – 2114 FLEURIER
Tél. +41 32 861 46 47
www.distival.ch


Absinthes Alain Rey
Alain Rey
Rue de Buttes 9 - 2114 Fleurier
Tél. +41 32 866 11 49
www.absintherey.ch


Distillerie d’Absinthe la P’tite
Gaudentia et Jean-Michel Persoz
Rue Fontenelle 9
2108 Couvet
Tél. +41 (0)32 863 30 88
Fax: +41 (0)32 863 30 88
www.absinthelaptite.ch


Absintherie du Père François
François Bezençon
Ruelle Rousseau 5 – 2114 Fleurier
Tél. +41 32 861 23 18
www.absintherie.ch


Association des cultivateurs d'absinthe
Yves Currit
Le Montsegand – 2105 TRAVERS
Tél. +41 79 217 50 58

According to the Absinthe Interprofession website, these are the officers:

PRESIDENT: Thierry Béguin
VICE-PRESIDENT: Yves Kübler
CAISSIER: Claude-Alain Bugnon
SECRETAIRE: Olivier Klauser
ASSESSEUR: Alain Rey
ASSESSEUR: Yves Currit

Since a few of you have invited me to comment, I feel it would be rude to ignore you much longer!

However I am not an official spokesman for the Swiss absinthe "interprofession," and I don't have access to that much information about this. It seems to me that this goes beyond just absinthe, and relates to bigger EU/Switzerland issues, e.g. free trade, product standards etc. Since I understand those issues less well (even less well?) than I understand absinthe, I don't think I can add much more than the above and a "No further comment" at this stage.



How about now?

Maker of Marteau Absinthe
Master Distiller, Gnostalgic Spirits Distillery
www.absinthemarteau.com
Confessions of an Absinthiste


#14 LeRoy

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Posted 27 May 2010 - 04:50 PM

Wow! I was about to place an order, but will now reconsider what I am ordering. It's a good thing I enjoy Duplais!

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#15 Joe Legate

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Posted 27 May 2010 - 08:30 PM

For WS members that would like to contribute (and are not producers, yet), could we start a short-term fund drive from The Wormwood Society? Say, a two week fundraiser that would go to the legal team from all of us. I'm guessing either Gwydion, Marc or Brian would have the skills to collect and then forward the cash.

Sorry, Alan, I love CLB but this is bullshit.

#16 Green Baron

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Posted 27 May 2010 - 09:25 PM

Unfuckinbelievable, and from a country that already had a pretty decent definition of absinthe. Everyone of those producers should know better. I don't care what nice guys and gals they're supposed to be or whatever, they're participating in a greedy, rank outright lie. Trying to turn a lie into enforceable law for profit is inexcusable.

I was hoping this whole thing would blow over, 'cause there's some nice VdT absinthes I enjoy and some I want to try, but I have no problem going without. I know my efforts wont exactly be earthshattering, but I'm gonna have to go ahead and remove Clandestine as a contact in social media (I now feel dumb giving them free advertising thinking they were the "good guys"), along with editing my positive reviews of CLB and La Ptite.

It'll be quite sometime, if ever, before I have anything good to say about VdT absinthes/producers, and even longer before I consider spending any money on them.
This post has been edited over and over again by Green Baron

Chasing the green fairy in my triplane!

"A decorous absinthe will persuade your whisper away with its hooch essence..."

#17 Clement Arnoux (Aggelos)

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Posted 27 May 2010 - 10:39 PM

A far cry from the initial "praise".

I don't think Aggelos knew the extent of what the VdT gang were up to.



True. Initially, I was glad to see a common initiative to act in the way of enforcing quality absinthe. I did not understand the consequences.

I'll have to decypher a bit more the EU legislation, but I am by no mean of the level of a "legal counsel". Still I thought the "Casis de Dijon" jurisprudence would apply here...

I must take time to think about it
Absinthe makes me a different man. Why shouldn't he also have his two glasses ?
Unless Absomphe-related, if it's about old things, you can ask me

#18 Jen Dixon

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Posted 28 May 2010 - 12:13 AM

I was already going to add more French absinthes to my shop, but I feel a little bit more passionate in doing so now.

C'mon Val-de-Travers-- get yer head outta yer butt.
I'm Jen, artist and dork. I used to run an absinthe shop. You can also find me at:
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#19 baubel

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Posted 28 May 2010 - 12:21 AM

For WS members that would like to contribute (and are not producers, yet), could we start a short-term fund drive from The Wormwood Society? Say, a two week fundraiser that would go to the legal team from all of us. I'm guessing either Gwydion, Marc or Brian would have the skills to collect and then forward the cash.


I support this idea.



Sorry, Alan, I love CLB but this is bullshit.


Likewise. I was thinking about ordering a bottle the other day, and I was thinking about walking over to the nearest liquor store and buying a bottle of Kübler earlier this week. Looks like I won't be doing either. Good thing there are so many tasty ABSINTHE vertes out there. ;)

A little technological fix to a spiritual problem.


#20 Clement Arnoux (Aggelos)

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Posted 28 May 2010 - 12:47 AM

Well "absynthe" is not forbidden, and neither is "spiritueux aux plantes d'absinthe" like we do in France, since here we don't have the right to sell absinthe anyway
Absinthe makes me a different man. Why shouldn't he also have his two glasses ?
Unless Absomphe-related, if it's about old things, you can ask me

#21 Ron

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Posted 28 May 2010 - 01:17 AM

I don't think anyone would have complained if they tried to get protection for "La Bleue" alone. But "absinthe" and "fee verte" are quite over the top. Especially since many VdT absinthes are lazy, uncolored, mediocre absinthes.

Aggelos is right though, greedy and anti-competitive as they might be, the VdT gang can't stop people from using the name of a plant. Especially not a French name for a plant.

So in the end, absinthe will continue to be made outside of VdT, and made better than those coming from VdT. In addition, the history books will show them as a bunch of jackasses.

To say that they are shooting themselves in the foot is an understatement. They are committing suicide. Poor sods.

It's a shame, I had actually planned on going to Boveresse next year. Time to host a new absinthe feast and celebration outside of VdT, since those gentlemen are not a friend of the absinthe community.
Every hour is green hour. -Hedonmonkey

Sometimes bad just gets so bad that it breaks thru to the other side and becomes good. - Phoenix

#22 sixela

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Posted 28 May 2010 - 02:06 AM

along with editing my positive reviews of CLB and La Ptite.


Why? No matter what you think of their tactics, it doesn't change the products.

#23 Ron

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Posted 28 May 2010 - 02:37 AM

I don't think his opinion of the products has changed, I think perhaps he's removing his reviews so they can't be seen as any type of endorsement or recommendation. Not a bad call, probably.
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Sometimes bad just gets so bad that it breaks thru to the other side and becomes good. - Phoenix

#24 OMG_Bill

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Posted 28 May 2010 - 03:51 AM

Ahhh, we're still here to educate. The reviews should stay, JMO. You could add a little note if you'd like, but that may appear political.

I'd like help. I need to reread the thing. It will take me awhile. There ought to be a way around some of it as Aggelos suggested.
Some folks may cringe each time I use the term "Booze" regarding these high quality drinks.
I mean no offense. There are bottles of extraordinary booze out there. I've tasted a few. Relax.

#25 Joe Legate

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Posted 28 May 2010 - 03:55 AM

Jeeezus Cris on a Pogo stick. Sixer still lives?
Welcome back.


The sentence fragment was just for you. ;)

#26 dakini_painter

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Posted 28 May 2010 - 03:58 AM

I don't have 1,000 Euros to support this effort to prevent this. But it's clearly not a valid claim.

Since the Swiss government doesn't have to answer to anyone but it's own citizens, I wouldn't be surprised if they pass it and let the burden of proof (as well as legal costs) fall on the non-Swiss producers.

Too bad they didn't try and protect their "absinthe" going back to the early 90's when the Czechs started making absinthe and flooding EU with their products.

There's many people who are nice people, but not nice business people.

I suspect that Kübler is behind this. And the other producers in VdT are going along because of their own reasons.

Remember that in the US there is no class of spirit called "absinthe" (technically).

"Good is the only investment that never fails." Thoreau.
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#27 eric

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Posted 28 May 2010 - 04:26 AM

Remember that in the US there is no class of spirit called "absinthe" (technically).


Perhaps a possible loophole?
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#28 Ron

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Posted 28 May 2010 - 04:30 AM

mediocre absinthes

I suspect that Kübler is behind this

That would be comical.


Since the Swiss government doesn't have to answer to anyone but it's own citizens, I wouldn't be surprised if they pass it and let the burden of proof (as well as legal costs) fall on the non-Swiss producers.

Yes but a Swiss approval will virtually guarantee an EU approval. In some cases, the EU protected geographical status plays second fiddle to individual country protections, like French wines. An EU approval would have a great affect on the European brands we currently love to import and imbibe. An EU approval would also certainly bring pressure on the US as well, except for the fact that the US doesn't generally give two shits about geographically protected statuses, the least of which would be a bogus claim by the VdT gang.

Too bad they didn't try and protect their "absinthe" going back to the early 90's when the Czechs started making absinthe and flooding EU with their products.

I think it's clear that the VdT gang are doing this because of competition, and not protection of the spirit. The Czech fakesinthes were never competition. And, of course, absinthe production in Switzerland at the time was still very much clandestine.


Ahhh, we're still here to educate. The reviews should stay, JMO. You could add a little note if you'd like, but that may appear political.

I thought about that as well. If we're here to educate, we should educate. I figure Brian will want the reviews to stay too. So I think a footnote would be appropriate. But in the end, they're his reviews to dispose if he so chooses.

There ought to be a way around some of it as Aggelos suggested.

The EU laws on geographical protections are pretty strict. They even forbid language such as "like" and "style." The plant issue is the only way I see that others can continue to label their absinthes accordingly.
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Sometimes bad just gets so bad that it breaks thru to the other side and becomes good. - Phoenix

#29 ignis

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Posted 28 May 2010 - 04:50 AM

US doesn't generally give two shits about geographically protected statuses,


can you buy Champagne in the usa that wasn't made in Champagne? Or is it called sparkling white like in Australia?

EDIT; forget that question i just realised that was a wiki link and it states in the first line the answer.


It seems a bit like a expensive excersise in futility, a triumph of enthusiasm over common sense. If producers can label their product 'spirito o' plants Absinthe' then keine sorgen, macht nichts or no worries.

Edited by ignis, 28 May 2010 - 04:54 AM.

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#30 Ron

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Posted 28 May 2010 - 05:12 AM

You don't want to set the legal precedent though. Because in the future they can just tighten the screws on language, as in the case of "the champagne method" (secondary fermentation in the bottle) being disallowed as a description after the protection.
Every hour is green hour. -Hedonmonkey

Sometimes bad just gets so bad that it breaks thru to the other side and becomes good. - Phoenix


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