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

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

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

Ask Dr. Vinny Labeling Regulations Natural Wine

More In Dr. Vinny

Should every wine on a restaurant wine list be available?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny advises patience as the restaurant industry recovers from …

Jul 26, 2021

Will ice cubes made from alkaline water change the flavor of white wine?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how an ice cube can change the taste of wine in …

Jul 19, 2021

What's the proper way to pour wine?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers pro tips for wine service.

Jul 12, 2021

Where can I find recommendations for inexpensive wines that are ready to drink now?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert, Dr. Vinny, says that just because a wine CAN age for …

Jul 6, 2021

What’s the difference between white Bordeaux and white Burgundy?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains which grapes are grown in two of France's most …

Jun 28, 2021

What does it mean to say a wine is “dry”? And which wines are driest?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert, Dr. Vinny, explains a commonly misunderstood wine …

Jun 21, 2021