Italy's ruling council for Chianti Classico wines is to hold back a fifth of this year's wine harvest in response to uncertainty in the market.

It is hoped that ruling, known as "blocage", will help to stabilise supply and demand for Chianti Classico in a wine market affected by the global economic downturn.

"20% of the yield of 2009 Chianti Classico harvest will be blocked for 24 months in the cellar," a spokesperson for the council confirmed to just-drinks today (12 August).

However, she added: "This rule could be withdrawn before deadline on request of our board of directors."

Italian media reports said earlier this year that Italy had lost its position as number one wine exporter to the US, after a 20% drop in exports by volume to the US in the first quarter of 2009 saw the country overtaken by Australia.

Italy's first quarter volume exports to the UK and Canada also fell by 13% and 17%, the Union of Italian Winemakers is reported as saying.