The French wine industry is suffering from a decrease in domestic wine consumption, which has dropped to about 14.5 gallons per year per person from 26.5 gallons in 1970 because of increased competition from the New World.
Supporters say the move, which could take place as early as spring, will make French wine easier to understand, and help winemakers adapt their products to different consumer tastes--more sugary for Japan, for example, or more structured for the U.S--and win back customers.
But some producers say the plan tramples on the French terroir tradition, or attachment to regional produce--and successful winemakers say it could hurt their business.
American consumption of wine has increased, topping 300 million cases for the first time in 2006, due to a combination of better marketing by the largest producers, an improved process that makes wine more palatable to American tastebuds and a glut on the market that has kept prices low. This decade, the U.S. is on track to surpass France and Italy as the world's largest wine market.