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Absinthe receives European protection label

Absinthe bottles with the famous Fée verte (green fairy) Keystone

Absinthe, highly alcoholic and sometimes said to induce hallucinations, has been awarded the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) label ensuring that only the Swiss-produced drink can call itself absinthe.

The Federal Agriculture Office said on Thursday that absinthe, the Fée verte (Green fairy) and La Bleue (The Blue) were names specific to the products distilled by traditional methods in the Val-de-Travers region of canton Neuchâtel.    

The label was given despite opposition from 42 interest groups, including 20 from abroad, who argued that the name absinthe implied a generic rather than traditional designation and could also refer to a variety of vegetable.

“In Switzerland, there is no question that these designations fulfill the conditions of a traditional denomination and not a generic denomination,” the Agriculture Office said in a statement.

“Absinthe, Fée verte and La Bleue evoke an ‘eau-de-vie’ traditionally associated with the Val-de-Travers region which has built the reputation of this product. There is no question of accepting demands for an extension of the geographical region given that a tradition has not been proven in other regions.”

The recognition of PGI and PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) labels came into force in Switzerland last December following an accord between Switzerland and the European Union under which both sides recognise each other’s special food labels.

Absinthe in its modern incarnation of a distilled spirit containing green anise and fennel originated in Neuchâtel in the late 18th century and became popular a century later in France, particularly in Paris.

Opponents of the awarding of the PGI label have 30 days to appeal the decision to the Federal Administrative Court.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR