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French Furious Over Failure to Define Absinthe

Small bottles of absinthe known as mignonettes were traditionally given to clients to sample
© Rama | Small bottles of absinthe known as mignonettes were traditionally given to clients to sample
French politicians point finger at producers in Eastern Europe.

Absinthe-loving French poet Baudelaire “would be turning in his grave” if he knew of developments at the European Parliament this week, say disgruntled French politicians. Their comments come in the wake of the parliament's veto of a proposed definition of the green spirit that was illegal in many countries at the start of the 20th century.

The definition proposed by the European Commission stated that all absinthe must contain minimum levels of the aromatic compounds anethole and thujone. 

France was keen for the restrictive definition to be passed, but the proposal would have left many spirit producers in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic unable to call their anise-flavored products "absinthe."

Following the vote, several French members of the European Parliament expressed their disgust at the veto. The Green Party’s Eric Alauzet, who hails from the absinthe-producing region of Franché-Comte, described the veto as “regrettable.” He said the definition proposed by the Commission would have “ensured the authenticity and the quality of the product.”

Fellow parliamentarian Françoise Grossetête called the veto a “scandal.” Referring to the French poet who died in 1867, she claimed that “Baudelaire would be turning in his grave.” 

Grossetête added: “In reality, this veto is in the interests of certain companies located to the east of the Rhine that wish to produce lower quality absinthe and steal market share away [from France]."

The case is not closed, however, because the Commission is likely to propose a revised definition.

In August, a ruling by the Swiss courts decreed that absinthe producers would not be able to sell their spirit in Switzerland as absinthe, if it was not made within the country’s borders.

 

Related story:

It’s Official: Absinthe is Swiss

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