The Finnish Government is to challenge the European Commission's proposals for a broad definition of vodka under the proposed new European Union (EU) spirit labelling regulations, exploiting its oncoming position as EU president. Finland will use its control over EU Council of Ministers' business to try and secure agreement that only drinks made from cereals or potatoes can be labelled 'vodka'.

Others, like Diageo's Ciroc, which is made from grapes, would have to be called 'spirit drink' or 'white spirit.'

Finland says the present regulation, which does not specify any raw material for the manufacture of vodka, dates from the 1980s when there were no major vodka-producing countries in the EU.

"We cannot accept the definition of vodka given in the proposal, according to which the raw material is not limited…this discriminates against vodka producers," said a Finnish government spokesman, claiming that Germany, Belgium, Poland, Sweden, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia agreed with this line.

But the UK and several other EU countries strongly disagree, accusing the Finns and their allies of protectionism. Alan Butler director of EU corporate relations at Diageo told just-drinks.com that the Commission proposals would "in no way affect the ability of Finland to use geographical indications to promote their own products."