Absinthe Politics: Swiss IGP Passes.

Well damn. Just when I was thinking that the Swiss IGP was dead per the last few posts on the European definition of absinthe (here and here), it sneaks in under the radar and blooms into full idiocy.

What this means is that the terms “Absinthe”, “Fee Verte”, and “La Blue” are protected in Switzerland as having origin in the Val-deTavers (VdT) region, the birthplace of absinthe.

It seems odd that the country that banned absinthe in 1910, paving the way for others, takes such nationalistic pride in it now.

Swiss Absinthe Ban Poster
You stabbed her, but now you want her back?

One news article states that the EU will back this as well, so this might effect all of the European Union. Meaning that absinthe made in France, the historically popular center of absinthe, can’t be labeled as such. An industry insider I know claims that this is false and the geographical protection will only effect Switzerland pointing to the term “En Suisse” used in this article. Time will bear the ultimate truth out.

With option number one, absinthe made all around the world would be banned from being labeled as such. Even if it was made in the epicenter of absinthe; Pontarlier, France. Absinthefiend’s post on the subject highlights this matter succinctly (Please read. The Fiend brings up a few things I was going to, especially about Spain. No sense in repeating).

Option number two, any absinthe made in Switzerland outside of the Val-de-Tavers regions could not bear the designation. There are many producers outside of the VdT that this could effect. One of note is Oliver Matter, who distills a plethora of absinthe including Marylin Manson’s brand of Mansinthe.

The supposed intention is to act against fake absinthe coming from other countries. Yet, Switzerland already does that by being the only country with a definition of absinthe (must be distilled and contain no artificial colors) in the first place! Obviously this bill was passed with other intentions than what its promoters have claimed, especially if it only effects Switzerland.

I really don’t like the way this played out. Essentially, either option is a mess and as far as the ‘protecting against fauxsinthe’ argument goes, I don’t buy it.

So let me tell you a few others things I don’t buy since I first learned of this IGP while it was in progress. Any products from the following:

Distillerie Artemisia
Claude-Alain Bugnon
1er Mars 10 – 2108 COUVET
Tél. +41 32 863 36 46
This includes the phenomenal “La Clandestine” and the recreation of pre-ban American absinthe “Butterfly”.

Absinthe Kübler SA
Yves Kübler
Rue du Château 7 – 2112 MÔTIERS
Tél. +41 32 861 14 69
Yep, that Kubler.

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

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

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

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

Absinthes Alain Rey
Alain Rey
Rue de Buttes 9 – 2114 Fleurier
Tél. +41 32 866 11 49

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

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

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

I suggest you do the same.

The one person this screws over, no matter what, is Oliver Matter. The timing of this is odd since I just drank the last bit from my bottle of his absinthe made in protest about this issue over the weekend. I will continue to support this Swiss distiller and I highly recommend his A. O. Spare absinthe. Fans of Marilyn Manson might want to get a hold of some Mansinthe while they still can as well.

If you want to read more about this issue I recommend this thread from the Wormwood Society.


15 thoughts on “Absinthe Politics: Swiss IGP Passes.

  1. You write “Just when I was thinking that the Swiss IGP was dead per the last few posts on the European definition of absinthe, it sneaks in under the radar.” I did write to you to say that I did not believe it to be dead, so saying it “sneaks in” isn’t quite correct.

    I don’t believe you have a full grasp of how things work in Europe or between Switzerland and the EU. If Switzerland decides an IGP for itself, then there is no automatic implementation elsewhere. In this case, that would have to go to discussions between EU and Switzerland, and I am sure that the likes of Pernod-Ricard would have an influence on that.

    No, the current laws do not protect the Swiss: look up “cassis de Dijon” and you’ll see that products sold in one country in Europe can have a right to be sold in another country. As Switzerland and the EU get closer trading links, this is already an issue in Switzerland where they now see Absente for the first time. The IGP is the only option that they have in Switzerland to trump the “cassis de dijon” principle being invoked by brands that don’t meet the current Swiss law.

    This is and always has been about protecting the Swiss tradition in Switzerland, and stopping the incursion of poor quality products that have nothing to do with that into the Swiss market. If only the rest of the world could implement legislation that raised product standards. However, from your earlier articles, you are aware of the very weak measures currently being considered at the EU level.

  2. Thanks for bringing up Oliver Matter. I’ve enjoyed his absinthes quite a bit, including his “unauthorized” protest absinthe, and have stopped buying absinthe from the Val-de-Travels distillers you’ve listed long ago. I even wrote a letter to each of them a couple of years ago voicing my concern over what they were doing, but I don’t recall having received a reply from any of them. Perhaps if they’d be willing to engage in a discussion with the absinthe community at large, we’d all come to a more agreeable conclusion. I appreciate Alan’s continuing to follow up on blogs and forums, but it’s disappointing to not hear directly from any of the distillers.

    In any case, thanks for continuing to keep the issue at the forefront!

    1. Most of the distillers don’t speak or write English, so that may have made it difficult for them to reply! I replied to a couple of the early writers on behalf of Claude-Alain, so sorry if I didn’t reply to you.

      1. Fair enough point, although they do manage to market their products in English. I’m not too concerned about a reply for myself, but given that there has been vocal, widespread concern about this for the past couple of years from distillers (and absintheurs) outside of the Val-de-Travers, having more of an international dialogue between all concerned parties would be most welcome. With translators, of course!

      2. Kubler’s main website was created by their US importer, and almost all the English copy on the La Clandestine website was written by me. I can’t speak for the others.

        Personally I’m in regular contact, either face-to-face or by email with many of the English-language speaking distillers or owners of French and American absinthes. And with more than a few absintheurs. Feel free to contact me on alanDotMossAtgmail.com and you’ll get a reply.

      3. I was referring to more of an international “round table” discussion between absinthe industry folks, since based on what I’ve read in a few forums, it doesn’t seem like anything of the sort has taken place. I respect that the V-d-T distillers may not feel they should be required to participate in that, but I think it would be a notable gesture, and in addition to possibly putting some folks at ease, a unified front of that sort would have more traction in any and all efforts to establish a legal definition for absinthe, in the EU, the US, and anywhere else.

        Thanks for making yourself available, Alan. I hope to make it to your side of the world one day and share a drink.

      4. Good idea and some of us DO talk to each other quite often. However I think most absinthe “companies” are much too small to consider travelling for an international round table discussion. Unfortunately the biggest absinthe companies in Europe also have a completely different agenda from the “real absinthe” producers!

  3. … And now I’m mostly confused…

    1) Can anyone, like Oliver Matter, sell (genuine and properly made) absinthe in Switzerland? Yes or no?

    2) Has there been any legal definition of absinthe within the EU yet, or is that to come?

    And 3) What does that Swiss IGP actually mean?

    – Seth

    1. Thanks for the questions Seth.

      1. From what I can tell Oliver Matter can make and export his Absinthe the same as he did before. The problem is that he can’t sell it in his own country using the restricted terms, one of which is Absinthe.

      2. They are working on an EU wide definition. A lot of the bigger companies are pushing hard for their cheap oil mix crap with artificial coloring to not be excluded from the definition. See this post and the follow up for information on that issue.

      3. Geographical indexing is linking a product, process, and term with a certain geographical area. They range in scope, with certain forms being more restrictive than others. For instance Tequila can only be made in certain regions of Mexico and following certain production processes, otherwise it has to be called Sotol or Mezcal. Pisco is highly regulated in Peru and often they come in to conflict with Chile over these definitions. Cognac is Brandy from the Cognac region, and so on. This Swiss IGP apparently only effects Switzerland and is thus not an Appellation of Control (AOC) for international use, yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s