France's National Appellations Institute (INAO) said it had proposed a law to allow the country's Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) regions to ban or limit the use of oak wood chips in wine.
INAO said it favoured banning oak chips across more than 460 AOC regions because it was concerned the practice may damage their quality image. It proposed the move even before the EU has had a chance to publish new wine rules allowing wood chips to be used.
Bags of oak chips, rather like large teabags, can be placed in wine to enhance aroma, and the method is cheaper than using oak barrels. Critics, however, argue oak chips con the consumer by making the wine appear to be older or of higher quality than it really is.
The decision from INAO was met with concern among more forward-thinkers in France's wine industry.
"INAO no longer knows what it is doing. It has been completely wrong-footed by European Commission plans to reform the wine sector," Jean Clavel, head of the Coteaux Languedoc AOC region, told BeverageDaily.com
"Using oak chips in some wines can add a little complexity, and helps them to respond to international demand from consumers who are used to woody aromas in their wines."
Using oak chips in wine has been recognised for some time by parts of the New World and the International Organisation for Wine and Vine.
European Commission backing for oak chips came as part of a plan to modernise and re-launch European wines on the world market. New World wineries have been taking market share off Europe's biggest producers, making overproduction and falling consumption in the EU a more acute problem.
The Commission is expected to finalise its proposal for fundamental reform of the EU wine sector, including potentially grubbing up 400,000 hectares of vines, by early next year.