Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
Please explain what is the meaning of “clean” and “not clean” in a wine, and how you distinguish it?
—Lucia C., China
There are a few ways the word “clean” is used in conjunction with wine. At one level, it means a wine that is not spoiled, that was made without any defects. There’s a whole spectrum of notes for a whole variety of wine defects out there, but in general, if it smells unappetizing, spoiled, rotting, musty, rancid, or like rotten eggs or burning tires, someone might pronounce it “unclean.”
“Clean” can also refer to the aroma or appearance of a wine, or to its personality. If a wine is crisp and fresh, and its flavors are delineated and clear, I might distinguish the wine by calling the flavors “clean.” It’s a generally positive note, the opposite of which would be to describe the flavors as muddled or murky.
Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...
Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more
Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions