The European Commission has introduced the final stage of its plan to make Europe's wine sector more competitive, but has again warned that member states are failing to take advantage of funds available.

New labelling rules mean that all EU wineries can use grape variety and vintage on their labels in order to simplify their products in the eyes of consumers.

Legal winemaking practices in the EU have also been broadened to include all those allowed by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine, although the Commission will continue to block the production of rosé wine by blending red and white wines together.

The changes are part of the final stage of EU wine reform, effective from 1 August and intended to make the bloc's wine sector more competitive against the likes of US, Chile, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.

Question marks remain over the level of support for reform in several member states, however.

Less than a third of funding made available to member states in the first year of the wine reform programme has been spent, according to the European Commission. 

European agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said yesterday (3 August): "I must urge member states to show urgency in using the new funds which are available. Money from the national envelopes must be used by 15 October, or else it will be lost."    

So-called national envelopes are the engines being used to drive wine reform, offering member states annual funding to restructure their industries, from grubbing up vines to promoting wine. Total funding is more than EUR600m, split proportionately depending on a country's production level.

Commission figures obtained by just-drinks last month revealed that Spain and Italy, two of the world's largest producers, have only spent 6% and 19% of their allocations respectively. France was the only member state to have used any funds to promote wine outside of the EU, according to the figures, which detailed spending up to the end of May.

EU funding for wine reform will rise from EUR794m (US$1.1bn) in 2009 to EUR1.2bn in 2013.

From August 2012, states will be banned from using funding for so-called crisis distillation, an emergency measure used to turn excess wine into undrinkable industrial alcohol.