Europe's wine industry is due to get its biggest ever makeover from the European Commission today (22 June).

The move is an attempt to bring the continent's winemakers in line with New World producers, while stymieing the crisis in the industry.

In a statement, earlier this week, EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel described the shake-up as a "root-and-branch reform of the European Union's wine sector".

"The EU is witnessing a slow but steady fall in consumption," Fischer Boel said. "In those EU countries where people are discovering the joys of wine drinking, our rivals in the 'New World' are taking a disproportionate share of the market."

With Europe producing too much wine, the EU has helped out again this year by paying grants to winemakers to distill their alcohol for industrial use. "This is an unsustainable - some might say crazy - way to spend taxpayers' money," Fischer Boel added.

The new plan will pay up to EUR2.4bn (US$3bn) over five years for producers to stop producing and grub up some of their vineyards. Up to 400,000 hectares of vineyards are targeted by this grubbing up initiative.

At the same time, the restrictions on labelling of European wines are set to be revised, allowing the name of the grapes used to be put on the bottle to bring European practices in line with New World producers.

"Everyone involved - growers, winemakers, retailers, exporters, importers, consumers and politicians - must contribute to the debate on how to make sure Europe's wine sector regains its strength and remains the best and most successful in the world," Fischer Boel concluded. "This is a great opportunity - we must not waste it."

The Commission is expected to come back with legislative proposals, later this year or early next.