Actress Cameron Diaz and entrepreneur Katherine Power have teamed up to launch a new wine brand: Avaline. With two different options – a dry Spanish white, a French rosé, and an upcoming red ($ 24 each) – Avaline promises to “set a new standard” for “wine in its purest form,” made from organic grapes and does not contain any unnecessary additives.
“For Avaline, clean means always using organically grown grapes and only using ingredients approved by NOP (National Organic Program) if necessary, never adding animal by-products, colors and concentrates or unnecessary sugar, and always keeping sulfites below 100 ppm,” explains one Avaline representative. “And of the utmost importance is to be transparent so that the consumer can pour with confidence.”
However, experts say that using the term is misleading and problematic in an industry where there are already many transparency issues.
“Oh god !!” says Tanisha Townsend, the chief wine officer of Girl Meets Glass, a wine lifestyle and education agency. “If your wine is ‘clean’, does that mean that all of the other wines are ‘dirty’?”
Avaline’s marketing campaign relies heavily on consumer ignorance of real, low-intrusion or natural wine practices. (For more information on this truly artisanal wine movement, check out our guide to natural wine.)
“Taking the word clean and associating it with wine, and not just wine but a bulk wine, is like the entire natural wine movement, which has worked to make wine less crap and turn it into a shiny wine transform Barbie who doesn’t even do what she’s supposed to do. “
Dissect a “clean” wine
Diaz’s wine cleanliness is based on a number of factors but it goes a little deeper and things are not what they look like.
First of all, the brand is not particularly clear about the origin of its wines, it prides itself on its country of origin, but says little about winemakers or processes. This means that consumers have little to do with transparency, so all claims made on the company website are valued at face value.
For example, the company prides itself on having sulfur levels below 100 ppm – and that’s a bit confusing as actual sulfur levels are closer to 62 ppm. As a reference point in most natural wine circles, the maximum accepted for this additive is between 70 and 30 ppm. Avaline relies on commercial yeast rather than endemic yeast in some of its products. The latter is child’s play in winemaking with little intervention. And while the wines are actually vegan as promised (like many wines that don’t use protein filtration), they use additives in the form of fining agents like pea protein, bentonite clay, and tartar. While, as Townsend explains, additives are “often necessary” and commonly used in traditional wines, the template is high: Diaz’s wine is no cleaner than any other organic wine out there.
“It’s just another mass-produced organic wine, you know? That’s all it is, “says Caroline Conner of Wine Dine Caroline.” If you take the word clean and associate it with wine, and not just wine but a bulk wine, it’s like taking all the natural wine movement that has been there. We’re working to make the wine less crappy and turn him into a shiny barbie who doesn’t even do what he’s supposed to do. “
“It’s organic,” adds Conner, “but I think whatever you get out of it you lose in this misleading and distracting term they use.”
The name of the game? Transparency.
The real problem with this and other wines in the American market today is a lack of transparency, according to Conner. Unlike other foods, wine does not have to list all of the ingredients. To add insult to injury, some wines come from many consumers with meaningless labels like “gluten-free” (grapes have no gluten, last we checked) or “sugar-free” (by relying on small portion sizes) due to ignorance of them.
This is one place where Avaline actually stands out from the market.
“There are other wines that fit this definition [of ‘clean’]Still, they can be difficult to identify on the shelf, “says a brand representative.” Avaline meets our consumer demand for clean material with as much label transparency as possible. “
But Conner believes we can go one step further.
“The way we solve this is to educate people about wines of origin,” says Conner. It’s not about calling it dirty and calling something else clean. “
Instead of relying on marketing, Conner recommends buying from small manufacturers and most importantly, doing research and staying up to date.
“I wish there was an easier answer and I do my best to make it easier and more fun,” she says, “but the answer is, you have to work a little.”
For 103 wines that are just as “clean” – if not more – than Diaz’s, check out our list of the best organic and biodynamic wines.
Note: In an earlier version of this article it was stated that Avaline wines contain 100 ppm sulfur. Avaline wines contain closer to 63 ppm sulfur; “Below 100 ppm” is the brand’s maximum allowable sulfur content. A previous version of this article also stated that Avaline uses commercial yeasts. Both commercial and endemic yeasts are used.
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