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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 July, 2004, 12:48 GMT 13:48 UK
French vintners turn to the grape
A man sips French wine at an expo
French wines have been losing ground to New World rivals
France is attempting to inject some sparkle into its wine industry by changing the way it labels wine.

From now on wine can be labelled according to the type of grape used rather than where the grape was grown.

It is a move akin to a revolution for the French wine industry which has labelled and sold wines according to their regional origin for centuries.

The decision is an attempt by the industry to boost its faltering position on the global wine market.

New World challenge

"This step will clarify and simplify the way French wines are marketed on international markets," French Farm Minister Herve Gaymard said after a meeting of representatives from the wine industry.

Table wines currently labelled "vins de table" or "vins de pays" will now be encouraged to market themselves by grape variety or brand to make it easier for customers to choose wines.

Better-quality wines will continue to use the Appellation d'Origine Controlee (AOC) labelling system - a guarantee the wine has come from a specific geographical location.

French wine has increasingly lost ground to "New World" wines grown in Australia, South Africa and the US and it is hoped that using a similar labelling system will help drinkers pick a bottle of French wine with more ease.

With the exception of champagne, sales of French wine have been declining worldwide.

Sales from wines made in Chile, Australia and California overtook French wines on the global export markets for the first time in 2003.

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