For years, Vermonters have described their favorite maple syrup with a letter grade or as Vermont Fancy.
But beginning next year, those grading rules will change. Producers will begin labeling Vermont syrup by description, a system The Vermont Department of Agriculture says will allow Vermont to compete in the global market.
"It was felt by the International Maple Syrup Industry that consumers that aren't familiar with the syrup really weren't sure what they were buying," says Agriculture Agency maple Specialist Henry Marckres.
Under the old grading rules, the five grades have been Fancy, Grade A Medium Amber, Grade A Dark Amber, Grade B And Grade C.
But starting January 1, the syrup will be graded by color and taste. The five varities will include Golden Color/Delicate Taste, Amber Color/Rich Taste, Dark Color/Robust Taste, Very Dark Color/Strong Taste And Processing Grade.
"Most of the producers have come to understand that in order to compete in the global market, we have to be on the same footing as everywhere else," Marckres says.
The state began discussions to change the Vermont Syrup regulations in 2001. Last year, the legislature passed a joint resolution supporting the new rules. The Department of Agriculture came up with the descriptions after giving out unmarked samples of syrup, and compiling a list of the words people used to describe the taste of each grade. But for maple syrup producers, the new grades will take some time to get used to.
"Our job will be a little harder, because we're going to have to use all these words attached, descriptive words," says Burr Morse with Morse Farm Maple Sugar Works.
With the new maple syrup regulations kicking in next year, one of the main concerns for some local producers is with the name change will also come a change in Vermont tradition.
"They have great motives but the maple consumer, whether they're Vermonters, from the West Coast or any other place in the world, they're kind of set in their ways," Morse says.
But the Department of Agriculture hopes producers will focus on other ways of keeping Vermont's maple syrup identity unique by focusing more on Vermont's maple syrup density requirements.
"Our minimum level is higher than any other state or products, and we think that producers should market that because the higher the sugar content, the more flavor you'll have," Marckres says.
Other maple syrup producers throughout the U.S. and Canada currently use a similar system to describe their syrup by color and taste. Producers here in Vermont will have until January of 2015 to fully implement the new grading rules.