Which wines are “clean”? What does that even mean?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Which wines are “clean”? What does that even mean?

—Taylor, New York

Dear Taylor,

A small number of wine marketers have recently started using the term “clean” in association with wines that have been made from organic grapes or have minimal additives, but the term “clean” is not legally defined when it comes to wine. Anyone can say that their wine is “clean,” and it’s an evocative choice, because it suggests that other wines are “unclean” or “dirty,” and who would want a dirty wine? (To be clear, the alcohol industry is highly regulated in terms of consumer safety and sanitization.)

Marketers who use the term “clean” are suggesting that their winemaking decisions involve fewer ingredients and a minimalist approach, but there are many wines made the same way that are not specifically marketed as “clean.”

—Dr. Vinny

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