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Jan. 26, 2022

The Cleanliness of Clean Wine w/ Erik Segelbaum, SOMLYAY

The Cleanliness of Clean Wine w/ Erik Segelbaum, SOMLYAY

Ever been curious about the claims people make about “clean wines”? In the same camp as “natural wines” and “better for you wines,” clean wines have no definition and often deploy misleading marketing to get you to buy their wines. They take advantage of


Ever been curious about the claims people make about “clean wines”? In the same camp as “natural wines” and “better for you wines,” clean wines have no definition and often deploy misleading marketing to get you to buy their wines. They take advantage of the trend, particularly with Millenials, around a healthy lifestyle and spread misinformation in their marketing, according to sommelier and wine educator Erik Segelbaum.  Explore the rationale behind the clean wine trend and how to read into their marketing messages on this episode of XChateau!

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Detailed Show Notes:

  • Erik’s background
    • Was a chef in fine dining at the Park Hyatt Philadelphia
    • As he grew into wine, he stopped drinking for alcohol and more for flavor
    • He became a sommelier because it was more profitable than being a chef
  • SOMLYAY (Erik’s company)
    • Does private events, education (including with the Smithsonian), a wine writer, private cellar consulting, and hospitality/wine list consulting
    • Has done >300 private events in the past year, primarily virtual
  • Wrote an article called “Snake Oil for Sale: The Dirty Business of Clean Wine” (pg16) for the Sept / Oct 2021 issue of The Tasting Panel magazine
    • The impetus for the article - Erik always gets the same questions during consumer events around sulfites, natural/clean/healthy/“better for you” wines
    • He gets lots of ads using manipulative advertising around the wines
  • Definition of Clean Wine
    • It’s an invented word. There is no definition, no standards - it doesn’t actually mean anything
    • Implies other wines are “unclean”
  • Drivers of the clean wine trend
    • Millennials have taken over as the dominant wine buying cohort. They like “healthy,” and the trend is playing to their preferences
    • Celebrity endorsements backing trend (e.g., Cameron Diaz’s Avaline)
  • Clean wine claims are not false but spreading misinformation and are “lying by omission”
    • E.g., all wines are gluten-free
    • Vegan - sometimes animal products (e.g., egg whites) are used in fining but not really put into wine
    • Organic - does not mean any chemicals, just no synthetic chemicals (e.g., sulfites are organic and a good thing - required to make wine otherwise, nature turns grape juice into vinegar)
    • Additives - there can be bad ones (e.g., Velcorin, which is hazardous in large quantities, and Mega Purple, which adds color and sweetness)
  • Need to distinguish between “industrially produced wines” and “commercially produced”
    • Industrial wines are mainly on the bottom shelf of retail and are highly manipulated wines (e.g., use lots of additives)
    • Commercially produced can be well-produced wines, even at a commercial scale
  • Clean wine “obscures transparency”
    • They often manipulate where the wines are produced (e.g., don’t mention where the grapes are grown, only that they are produced and bottled in a specific place)
    • Targets naive consumers
    • An excellent example of transparency - Ridge Vineyards - has ingredient labeling and all relevant details on the label
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