The use of wood chips in winemaking, a cost-cutting, New World practice scorned by French wine purists, will soon be authorised by the French government.

"This move by the government is practically miraculous," said Roland Feredj, director of Bordeaux's regional wine body, the Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vins de Bordeaux.

A two-year experimentation period has been deemed necessary by the powerful French wine regulator, INAO (Institut National des Appellations d'Origine), however.

After a meeting with French winemakers, Agriculture Minister Dominique Bussereau said the use of wood chips and other winemaking practices would improve the competitiveness of French wine.

The INAO countered that it must be proved that wood chips would not distort the soil-given identity of the wine. The experimentation period was voted on by INAO earlier this month.

The use of wood chips has already been authorised by the EU.