The French wine industry is about to have its "hands untied" following European reforms that could let the once-mighty producer compete better with New World varietals.

Changes to EU law mean French wine labels now only have to state variety, vintage and brand name, simplifying information facing consumers. The first bottles of the new Vin de France category will launch into the UK market at the London International Wine Fair on 18 May.

"If producers wanted to blend across regions they had to call it Vin de Table and they couldn't put the variety or vintage on the label, so they had both hands tied behind they backs," said Anthony Rose, chairman of a judging panel for the new wines. "Now they are untying them."

South African wine outsold French wine for the first time last year but the new rules, which came into force last August, will help French wines claw back share from New World varietals, predicted Bottle Green marketing director Richard Hitchcock.

"The move to Vin de France allows us to be flexible on blending and pricing, and to create consistent wines from different areas, as New World wines do," said Hitchcock.

"We've been watching brands coming from all over the world and have not been able to play on the same field but now we can," said Valerie Pajotin of Anivin de France, the governing body of the new category.

James Griswood, product development manager at Tesco, said France now had "a better opportunity to compete against Australia or Chile on a cost basis".