THE LOWDOWN ON CLEAN WINE (AND WHY YOU SHOULD TRY IT)

From Instagram feeds to boutique wine stores, the term “clean wine” is becoming increasingly inescapable. But what is it about this variation of wine that makes it “clean”? 

After all, wine not defined by this title is hardly dirty. 

But what manufacturers mean when they label a bottle as “clean” is that it’s made with the bare minimum inclusion of chemicals, additives, or artificial enhancements. The wine is as true to its natural state as possible. This makes it a popular symbol for the health-conscious and sustainability-minded among us. 

However, there’s more to clean wine than what meets the eye. 

Intrigued? 

Here’s what sets clean wine apart from other wines and why drinking it should be on your to-do list.

clean wine

What Is “Clean” Wine?

Let’s start with the basics. What is clean wine? 

Also known as natural, organic, or biodynamic wine, clean wine is a red, rose, or white wine that’s derived from little to no chemical additives or artificial enhancements. Often labeled as raw and unfiltered, clean wine is ostensibly made from organic, pesticide-free grapes, no animal by-products, and no synthetic additives. 

But perhaps the biggest difference between regular wine and clean wine is the lack of added sulfites. Almost all the wine labeled as “clean” completely omits the addition of sulfites—which are often considered one of the most defining characteristics of traditional wine itself. 

Added sulfites are excluded from clean wine fermentation processes because the USDA National Organic Farming Program considers them a synthetic food additive. 

This creates a more acidic flavor profile, a cloudier appearance, and shorter shelf life. 

While many traditional wines may last for years or even decades at a time, clean or organic wines may only last between 3 months to a year.

What Are Sulphites?

Sulfites (also called sulphites) are substances that are naturally found in some foods.  They are also used as an additive to maintain food color, shelf-life and prevent the growth of fungi or bacteria.  Sulfites are also used in food packaging like cellophane.

Sulfites are safe to eat  for most people.  However, some people have sensitivity and may react with allergy-like symptoms. 

Foods and drinks that often contain sulphites include:

  • Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables
  • Fruit and vegetables juices
  • Dried fruits and vegetables
  • Cereal
  • French fries
  • Tomato pastes
  • Condiments like horseradish, ketchup, mustard, pickles and relishes
  • Vinegar and wine vinegar
  • Bottled lemon and lime juices and concentrates
  • Alcoholic and non-alcoholic wine, beer and cider

The Growing, Production, And Manufacturing Process

The various processes that go into a bottle of clean wine are not too dissimilar from traditional methods. However, there are certainly some distinctions worth noting. 

  • Organic farming – Clean wine is made from grapes farmed using only organic methods. That means refraining from the use of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and any other kind of artificial chemicals.
  • Natural deterrents – The crops are protected using natural deterrents such as sheep grazing, cover crops, and organicides to prevent weeds and pests from interfering with the growth process and ensuring the harvest is healthy.

Inclusion of wild yeast – Once the grapes have been harvested and crushed, they’re allowed to ferment using only the wild yeasts that exist on the surface of the natural grape skins. Then they are filtered through a fine cloth to remove excess sediment and decanted into clean bottles.

The key manufacturing differences in natural versus regular winemaking are the lack of synthetic pesticides, biodynamic farming methods, natural yeast inclusions, and the lack of added sulfites.

This top rated set of eight glasses includes with four Cabernet/Merlot & 4 Pinot Noir style glasses. Try your wine from different glasses and discover how the shape and size of your glass affect your perception of aroma and flavor.

What To Expect From Clean Wine

Now that you know how clean wine is made, let’s move on to how this process affects flavor and quality. 

Because natural wine doesn’t include the same stabilizers and preservatives as regular wine, the taste, appearance, aroma, and overall consumer experience tends to produce some differences. However, when it comes to the antioxidants like resveratrol, epicatechin, and quercetin, the good news is that clean and normal wine retains much the same qualities.

When you drink clean wine you may notice:

  • Cloudy appearance – Because natural wines don’t undergo as many filtration processes as regular wine, the appearance can be slightly more opaque than usual. You might also notice some light sediment at the bottom of your glass or bottle.
  • Acidic flavor – Due to the lack of sulfites, clean wine has a much sharper and more acidic flavor profile than regular varieties. Some even describe it as akin to kombucha or bitter beer, having those tangy, sour, and bright natural fermentation characteristics.
  • Lightly sparkling texture – The wild yeasts used to ferment organic wine produces a gentle sparkling texture that further likens it to drinks like kombucha. This can make white clean wine pleasantly refreshing and bright, especially on warmer days and it gives red wine an extra lightness too.

All in all, you expect a cloudier, tangier, and slightly fizzier sensory experience when drinking organic wine. It’s not to everyone’s taste, but it’s certainly worth a try.

The Debate About Clean Wine

There are a few strong opinions about clean wine that divide wine lovers across the globe. Since we’re covering the entirety of this hot topic, we may as well dive in. 

Firstly, terms like “organic” and “clean” are somewhat loosely used. There is no supreme organic wine certification protocol that can confirm or deny that a bottle of wine is 100% natural, vegan, or pesticide-free. Therefore, it would not be impossible for a company to tout their regular wine as organic with zero accountability. 

This creates room for misinterpretation of what clean wine really is. 

The growing presence of clean wine in the international wine market also puts the reputation of regular wine in a complex light. For those who don’t know much about winemaking, regular varieties could get misinterpreted as dangerous or dirty, which is very, very rarely the case. 

Even though the grapes used in regular wine may have gotten exposed to pesticides, the fermentation process means that the finished product shouldn’t contain any harmful chemicals. 

And in terms of sulfites, these popular preservatives are used to stabilize regular wine and allow them to stay fresher for longer. Unless you are allergic to sulfites, there’s no real reason to avoid them. 

All in all, there are some divisive differences between clean and traditionally produced wines. You just need to take them with a pinch of salt!

The Rise Of Clean Wine: To Sip Or Not To Sip?

Clean wine is a rising trend for a reason. It appeals to the large and growing population of vegans and people who prefer organic, biodynamic products. It also provides people with sulfite allergies with a safe and familiar alternative to regular wine. 

However, there are many wine purists who prefer the classical taste of traditionally manufactured wine. 

At the end of the day, both varieties can be delicious, high quality, and deliver a positive drinking experience. If you haven’t tried clean wine before, it’s certainly worth a go.

Also known as natural, organic, or biodynamic wine, clean wine is a red, rose, or white wine that’s derived from little to no chemical additives or artificial enhancements. Often labeled as raw and unfiltered, clean wine is ostensibly made from organic, pesticide-free grapes, no animal by-products, and no synthetic additives. 

When you drink clean wine you may notice:

  • Cloudy appearance – Because natural wines don’t undergo as many filtration processes as regular wine, the appearance can be slightly more opaque than usual. 
  • Acidic flavor – Due to the lack of sulfites, clean wine has a much sharper and more acidic flavor profile than regular varieties. 
  • Lightly sparkling texture – the wild yeasts used to ferment organic wine produces a gentle sparkling texture that further likens it to drinks like kombucha.

Taste Wine Like A True Armchair Sommelier

Spice up your next party with our FREE wine tasting guide! Learn what to look, smell, and taste for while appreciating your favorite bottle. We’ve also included a printable tasting notes template and a tasting wheel.

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Spice up your next party with our FREE wine tasting guide! Learn what to look, smell, and taste for while appreciating your favorite bottle. We’ve also included a printable tasting notes template and a tasting wheel.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.