French winemakers are to launch a new offensive aimed at warding off competition from New World wines.

Launched in March 2000, the Union des Grands Crus de Chablis has a simple aim: to defend and promote the quality of Chablis Grand Cru wines. It is a voluntary, non-profit-making association of 18 vineyard owners, situated within the appellation.

Acknowledging the stiff competition it now faces from Australia and other wine-producing countries, it is to initiate a global campaign to promote the top Bordeaux wines throughout Asia, the Americas and Europe.

Patrick Maroteaux, president of the Union of Bordeaux Grands Crus, said. "It is reassuring to see that in the high quality wine market, New World wines but also Italian or Spanish wines, are often more expensive than our wines,"

"Great Bordeaux vintages are experiencing growing competition, but also a growing market [...] consumers are drinking less, but drinking better. It is important for us to find our place in this market and to develop it."

He continued by stressing the importance of showing the high quality of Bordeaux wines in market where competitors from Australia have only just started to make wines that rival the standard of those in Europe.

After a successful 2000 vintage, the union members say they are confident that their 2001 vintages will be "high quality".