What Exactly Is Clean Wine and Is It Worth Trying? 

Published May 18, 2022
clean red and white wine on table in vineyard

Ever come across "clean wine" in your feed and wondered what exactly it is? With the abundance of green-washing in marketing today, it's harder than you'd think to get to the root of what something is, what it contains, and where it comes from. If you are curious about jumping on the clean crafted wine trend, there are a few things you should know.

What Does Clean Wine Mean?

Clean wine is a term coined by a few large private label brands to describe wine that is made without the use of synthetic chemicals or fertilizers and without the addition of a handful of chemicals and additives in the winery. Looking for a more specific answer? Well, that's a bit of a problem. There are no formal terms or certifications to deem a wine "clean". The above stipulations are the vague overarching terms people seem to agree on, but when it comes down to the nitty gritty of the viticulture practices and winemaking practices, the transparency is a bit lost.

Clean wine jumped on the health marketing bandwagon along with every other food, beverage, beauty, and cleaning product brand when people started demanding more transparency and, well, cleaner products. Certain brands really rode the wave, marketing their clean wine as a health product, nestling into your stress-reduced, active lifestyle right between your mid-day yoga session and your vitamin D supplement. While made with organic grapes, wine is still alcohol and simply cannot be compared to your morning matcha latte.

Is Clean Wine the Same as Natural Wine?

While there certainly are some similarities between the two, clean wine and natural wine part ways in few directions. You know those organicgirl greens that come in the plastic clamshell container, in stock at every grocery store? It's organic, so that's good, right? Yes and no. It's big agriculture organic. They may not use synthetic chemicals in the field, but it's high intensive farming with no face to the name and little story behind the product. Think of clean wine as the big ag equivalent. The private labels sweep up organic grapes from unknown vineyards in unknown locations. An unknown winemaker turns them into wine without using harsh chemical additives or colorings, and eventually, the wine reaches you.

Natural wine, on the other hand, tends to be from small local farmers who are growing a diverse variety of grapes with explosive taste. There is consideration for the sustainability of the land beyond organic, with farmers practicing dry-farming, no till, biodynamics, hand-picking, and more. There is a large emphasis on the story beyond the wine, from the soil composition to the winemaker's story to the hand-thrown amphorae utilized in the cellar. So while both clean wine and natural wine preach organic and neither have formal certifications, clean wine is more of the organic conventional wine and natural wine is the organic artisanal wine.

Benefits of Clean Wine

shopping for clean wine

Clean wine is organic and free of harsh chemical dyes and added sugar. If you are going to drink conventional wine, clean wine is your best option. It's kind of like dipping your toes into sustainability thru your beverage. Organic is better for the Earth and your health, so it's a good start.

Where Clean Wine Falls Short

As stated above, the clean wine brands fall short in their attempt to be transparent. Not only that, but the quality and lack of personal connection is very ambiguous. A good wine can transport you to and time and place and culture. While clean wine checks a few boxes, it doesn't transport you much of anywhere.

Where to Find It

A handful of brands are responsible for this wave of wine taking to the shelves. Celebrity Cameron Diaz and partner Katherine Power created a highly curated look for their brand Avaline. Wonderful Wine Co., Scout & Cellar, Good Clean Wine Co, and FitVine are a few others touting the benefits of "healthy wine".

To Drink, or Not to Drink

If you are looking for a mainstream organic wine and don't care about too much else, you'll likely find a glass of clean wine from one of the above brands to be great. On the other hand, if you are looking for something a bit more special, search out a natural wine in the same price range for a more vivid and captivating experience.

What Exactly Is Clean Wine and Is It Worth Trying?