At the risk of sounding like David on Schitt’s Creek, I’m just going to say it. I love wine. A fruity Rosé in the summer, a tangy Zinfandel in the fall, a full-bodied Merlot in the winter, and a crisp Chardonnay in the spring. While I have enjoyed drinking Cabernets over the years as well, they tend to leave me itchy after drinking; I’m told it’s the sulfites to blame. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more concerned with where my food and wine comes from and how it’s been grown/harvested. Obviously, I’m not alone. Millions of foodies have hopped on the “clean wine” trend, touting wines that are made with organic grapes and no added sugars, colors, sulfites, or preservatives making them less likely to make you itchy or give you a hangover, and also making them more keto-diet friendly, and potentially enjoyable by diabetics. Clean wines are harvested from sustainable vineyards, farmed without pesticides or chemicals. Sounds too good to be true, right? So, is clean wine even really a thing? And if it is, how do you begin to find one you’ll enjoy?
Right now, there aren’t any real guidelines for clean winemakers beyond those in place for conventional winemakers which means if the wine has been harvested from organic grapes, but still uses one or more of those 60 common additives used in conventional wines, it can still be labeled as “clean,” even though it may trigger allergies or create issues for those strictly monitoring their sugar levels. Hopefully, over time, winemakers will become more transparent about what goes into their wines and clearly label them so that consumers can make more informed decisions when choosing wines for themselves. Added to this lack of transparency, you have famous wine lovers like Cameron Diaz and Halle Berry touting their own winemaking investments and endeavors. While Diaz’ Avaline can be purchased in stores, Berry’s Dry Farm Wines is a subscription wine service, delivering a whole, curated case of wine at a time!
Whether clean wines are just a fad, or the wave of the future for wine drinkers like myself, I decided it was time to try a bottle and see if they truly were on par with my favorite, conventional wines. I recruited my daughter to imbibe with me as she’s always been very conscientious about how her food is grown, choosing organic produce for herself, and sustainably sourced products for herself, her dog, and her home. She’s also a law student, so if there was anyone who could help me dissect the labels on these wine bottles, it was her! So, in order to celebrate National Wine Day on May 25th, we headed to our local wine shop to peruse the clean wines and choose one to try.
We immediately removed Avaline from our short list as their labels clearly indicates that while they use organic grapes, their wines contain sulfites. We moved to the Old World wines section as wines from France and Spain, for example, are definitely wines made from organic grapes, without pesticides, and frequently vegan-friendly. The problem, however, was once again sulfites ruled the day, regardless of price point. We were at a loss when a very helpful shop employee stepped in and we shared what we were hoping to find, basically a wine made with organic grapes, vegan-friendly, and no sulfites. He immediately suggested we try Mother’s Choice. The shop only had two varieties to choose from, a 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2019 Red Blend, as the company has yet to release their much anticipated Daily Chardonnay and Zinfandel. We decided to go with the Red Blend which was 88% Syrah and 12% Alicante Bouchet, and described as having hints of fresh blackberry and plum, flavors favored by my daughter.
As soon as we removed the screw-top lid, and poured a glass to sniff, we could immediately smell the fruity freshness of this wine. We let the glasses sit for a moment and then swirled them to see if the wine “had legs,” which it did. Our first glass was enjoyed outdoors in the sunshine where we both agreed the wine was quite drinkable with no acidic palate burn, something my daughter has experienced with traditional California red wines like Cabernet and Merlot. Our second glass was enjoyed with a spicy fish dish and roasted asparagus and the wine paired well with these flavors. While this wine is most definitely not like drinking my favorite California Zinfandel or Pinot Noir, it was absolutely a fun, drinkable, table wine to serve to non-pretentious family and friends looking to share a bottle of wine that will make them feel good about the way it was made AND not leave them feeling itchy or hungover the next day. My daughter doesn’t normally purchase red wines for herself, but does intend to purchase another bottle of Mother’s Choice to have on hand for her next barbecue. At $13.99 it is quite affordable, particularly for a law student on a budget!