Opinion Wine

Mr. Clean plays dirty

Hollywood actress Cameron Diaz breaks with tradition and offers us Avaline, a "clean" wine. Is it revolutionary or a marketing scam?

The show biz is invading the world of wine. Coppola, Sting, Banderas, Minogue and so many others have become vintners. So far celebrities have lent their image to conventional wines. Their narratives vary but all agree, as tradition dictates, that a wine is judged by how it tastes without regard for what it contains.

Breaking with traditional rhetoric, Hollywood actress Cameron Diaz reveals to the general public that the vast majority of the wines they consume contain more than fermented grapes: residues of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, some of which are believed to be carcinogenic! Sneakier are the ones touting: this little raspberry taste comes from aromatic yeasts made in the laboratory; this opulence in the mouth results from tannins and enzymes bought from a chemist and this roundness is due to the gum arabic.

Judging by the annual turnover of the chemical industry serving the wine business, one is inclined to believe that Diaz is telling the truth. Between fertilizers, phytosanitary products and oenological biochemistry, several hundred million euros are spent every year.

Breaking with these nasty practices, here’s when the heroine Diaz comes in and offers us “Avaline”, a “Clean” wine.

According to Diaz, clean means that the wine is made with organic grapes. That is to say from a viticulture that it refrains from the use of synthetic pesticides and biocides and protects the environment. Apart from a minimal dose of sulphites necessary for the good preservation of the wine, the biochemical arsenal of Dr Frankenstein has not been used. Still, something sounds wrong …

By telling us what is in Avaline or rather everything that has not been added to it, Diaz takes the side of the consumer by demanding transparency. So why hide two key information for a wine? Its origin and who made it.

Probably because the importer has no interest in linking up with a particular producer. Who knows, the latter could become greedy if the case turns out to be a success? What is the point of lifting the veil on the turpitudes of the profession to ultimately hide behind a smokescreen?

Those who orchestrated this campaign saw that “Nature” was in tune with the times. The “Clean” – a marketing concept built from scratch – is well thought out from an importer’s standpoint. Its detergent connotation sweeps the competition from floor to ceiling. Yet they would have done better to bet on sincerity, because obviously that is what this project lacks most. This is also what the consumer aspires to – he is tired of hypocritical speeches.

Sincerity is sharing your feelings in good faith and without scheming; speaking with no artifice; also acknowledging one’s shortcomings or weaknesses.

A sincere wine is a wine that is content to be what it is, because it is faithful to its origins. A wine that is made more by working in the vineyards than by oenological manipulations. A wine that preserves the habitat of which workers and their families are an integral part, just as – if not more – than the flora and fauna. Whoever claims to protect nature and shamefully exploits his workers cannot be sincere.

All human activities put pressure on the environment. What matters is not that the winegrower spares nature at all costs, but that it maintains measured relationships with it; that it preserves biodiversity and soil life; maintains a human and animal presence in the vines. If it practices organic or biodynamic cultivation it must put his actions in line with his words and have its commitment certified by recognized organizations.

Organic certification attests that the vineyard respects the environment. Biodynamic certified wines are certainly not ‘photoshopped’. It is essential that the wine is made exclusively from grapes grown on the estate and fermented on site with indigenous yeasts. How can you be sincere if you don’t say that the grapes and yeasts have been bought? Finally, the wine must be bottled at the estate to prevent adulteration.

Now the consumer should no longer be fooled if it cares to verify these criteria. Admittedly, label regulations are tricky and vary from country to country. However, by doing some research on the internet, consumers are now able to separate the wheat from the chaff because they would hate to enrich those who try to cheat them. Let us seek sincere wines to better protect ourselves from hypocrites and to endorse a worthy viticulture.

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