Slivovice: traditional Moravian spirit is under threat from EU bureaucrats

Anyone who's been to Moravia will most probably have sampled a glass of slivovice, the potent clear spirit usually made from plums, which is synonymous with the region and which the local inhabitants are extremely proud of. Although many Moravians distill their own slivovice, there are also a handful of Czech firms who sell it on the Czech market, but this might be about to change. A new proposed regulation before the European Parliament could mean that these distilleries might not be able to call their product slivovice in the future.

In April a new regulation is to go before the European Parliament which - if passed - would define slivovice as a spirit made from plum juice with alcohol added to it. If this is approved, it means that the traditional distilled Moravian liquor would no longer be able to call itself slivovice. Naturally, distillers - some of whom have been selling slivovice for decades - are up in arms about the proposed move. They say changing the name of their product could have a detrimental effect on their business.

I spoke earlier with the owner of a small, family-run distillery in Moravia, Martin Zufanek, and asked him what Moravian slivovice is actually made from:

"Slivovice has always only been made from plums. Here in Slovacko we have always made Slivovice from various kinds of plums. We use ordinary, plain plums as well as different cultivated plums, such as the Stanley. So, it's a mixture of plums, but, it's always been just plums and nothing else."

Mr Zufanek says that if the proposed legislation is passed it could have major repercussions for his company:

"If the new EU regulation is approved and the new definition of slivovice means that it becomes kind of liquid made from fruit juice with alcohol added to it, our company would have to think about a new name for our products. We take pride in producing our slivovice and various fruit liqueurs using nothing but fruit, without any extra alcohol added. The new legislation would therefore have a negative impact on our company's strategy and philosophy. At the moment, I don't know what exactly we would do..."

One thing Mr Zufanek is sure of, however, is that his company would sell less slivovice than before, because it would take some time for customers to get used to the new name of the product. One small consolation for Mr Zufanek, however, is that Czech diplomats and members of the European Parliament have promised that they will fight tooth and nail to try and "save" Czech slivovice and change the definition in the legislation before it is voted on next month.