Bordeaux wine producers warned Monday that a European Union decision to authorise their US rivals to use the term 'chateau' on bottles sold in Europe would amount to "cheating consumers".
As things stand, American wines which use 'chateau' on their label cannot be sold in the European Union, where rules require a chateau wine to come from a single estate.
Agriculture officials from the bloc's 27 member states were due to meet in Brussels Tuesday to consider a change to the rule requested by Washington as part of broader trade negotiations but no vote will now be taken.
"After all, there will not be a vote Tuesday and the discussions will continue," a European source told AFP.
The European Commission, the bloc's executive arm, has recommended granting the US request and French Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll admitted in Brussels on Monday that Paris was likely to find itself outvoted.
"France is particularly attached to the denomination 'chateau' which has a special meaning for us in terms of wine, but other countries are much less so," Le Foll acknowledged. "We are in difficult talks."
The issue is particularly sensitive in Bordeaux, where the term chateau is virtually synonymous with wine-producing estates, with even those that have no buildings vaguely resembling a chateau, which can be translated as castle or manor house, using it on their labels.
Georges Haussalter, the president of the Bordeaux winemakers' council (CIVB), said: "Chateau for us means a wine produced on a single estate in contrast to the American definition which is very loose.
"It would be a great shame if this principle was given up as part of other trade negotiations."