Spirit drinks are produced in all EU countries, both for domestic consumption and export. The 47 spirit drink categories regulated at EU level (e.g. rum, whisky, brandy, vodka) and the approximately 240 geographical indications (e.g. Madeira Rum, Irish Whiskey, Cognac, Polish Vodka) are a clear sign that the sector is deeply rooted in the European culture and tradition.
With almost 12 billion euros exports in 2018, spirit drinks contribute by nearly 10 billion euros to the positive EU trade balance. They give rise to approximately 22.4 billion euros in excise duties and VAT in intra-EU sales and provide around 1 million direct jobs in production and sales.
The EU does not support the production of spirit drinks but provides for a common legislative framework as regards their production and labelling and the protection of geographical indications for spirit drinks.
Rules on spirit drinks production and labelling are set out in EU regulation 110/2008 and EU implementing regulation 716/2013. They provide for the definition of ‘spirit drink’ and of the 47 spirit drink categories allowed in the EU, outlining detailed rules on their production, description, presentation and labelling and on their use in the production and labelling of other foodstuffs. They also define the alcohol that may be used in the production of spirit drinks and any other alcoholic beverage.
On 25 May 2021, the provisions on production and labelling contained in the above-mentioned regulations will be repealed and replaced by those laid down in EU regulation 787/2019.
Currently, applicable rules on geographical indications (GI) in the sector of spirit drinks are laid down in EU regulation 787/2019 (applicable since 8 June 2019) and EU implementing regulation 716/2013. Specific European Commission delegated and implementing regulations on spirit drinks GI are in preparation. They will replace the GI rules included in EU regulation 716/2013.
Various committees, composed of government representatives and chaired by a European Commission representative, meet regularly to ensure that the Commission's responsibility for adopting implementing acts is exercised under the control of EU countries.
The committee and the expert group for spirit drinks discuss areas such as the evolution of market prices, production and trade in the EU and non-EU countries.
The civil dialogue group on spirit drinks has the role of assisting the European Commission in maintaining a regular dialogue with stakeholders on all matters related to the spirit drinks sector.