Vodka: What's in a name?

Vodka can be made only from grain, potatoes or sugar beets.

Unless, of course, you're not beholding to European Union rules. Then any organic matter is fair game.

The EU Agriculture Ministers agreed this week on the severely limited definition of vodka, suggested as a compromise decision by Finland, which holds the rotating EU presidency.

The decision ended some oftimes-testy debating over the definition. According to the resolution, if the beverage is made from other ingredients, including grapes, that will have to be indicated on the label. Of course, all this still has to go to the full European Parliament for debate, and debate and debate, when it reconvenes next March.

Current EU rules, introduced 17 years ago, stipulate only that vodka should be produced using "agricultural products." The definition controversy was part of a more general discussion on new regulations on alcohol and spirits aimed at clarifying the rules on production and appelations.

According to a Vinexpo study, world vodka consumption will rise by 11.4% between 2003 and 2008.

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