NEW BUZZWORD…“CLEAN” WINES by AJ Linn

It seems that for whatever purpose, usually self-promotion, people never tire of inventing new descriptions for wine, as if the term were not enough in itself. Wine is a product made from fermented grape juice, and that’s it. Labels on bottles are admittedly not generous with information, but the law in each country’s case is invariably complied with, and those little notes about a wine being suitable for drinking with scrambled eggs, marinated venison, fried fish, etc., are never to be taken seriously, not least by the very winemakers who make up this stuff. Within the last couple of decades, however, we have been bombarded with different categorisations – or should that be BS? I confess to having praised organic wines when they were first marketed all those years ago, as they seemed to have everything in their favour. But what happened? Where are they now? We occasionally see the term “organic” on a label, but do we take much notice? Do we go out of our way to search out organic wines in stores or restaurants? (Well, undoubtedly some people do, representing the inconsequential minority.) Later the term “natural” became popular but, as producers of natural wines would occasionally admit if you caught them off guard, this was poor man’s organic without the need for lengthy certification procedures and vineyard conversions. Its prime objective was to convey the message that pesticides were not used, but of course there was no way of checking, and we had to take the winemakers at their word. So what are we to make of the newest classification that appears to be the buzzword of the moment, “clean wine”? When we refer to an item as“clean” the inference is that everything else is not clean, so do we assume that the lack of “cleanliness” is associated with the fact that most wines are loaded with chemicals and additives? The unwritten message has to be that if we value our health such wines should be avoided. Movie actress Cameron Díaz started the trend, noticeably counseled by a savvy and opportunistic media agency, jumping on the same bandwagon as the already-flying Clean Food and Clean Eating movements. Indeed, if we dig a little deeper, we do indeed find that the movement in the US is masterminded by the Power agency, which also advises mega brands such as Clique and Who What Wear.

It is also apparent that the actress has morphed into a part-time wine producer, whose $24 Avaline Catalunyan white and Vin de France rosé are certified as organically cultivated and free from “unnecessary extras”, whatever that phrase is supposed to convey to the drinker. No-one, least of all the writer, is making excuses for additive-overloaded wines, with the potential of as many as 70 alien substances that may be added to them (not all at once and not with all wines). Diaz’s pitch is therefore that “most wines sold in the United States contain colour enhancers, preservatives, chemical stabilizers, Mega Purple, oak essence, sugar, acid, and the like”. And many indeed do. The list includes yeasts, fining agents that come from animal sources, and even PVPP, the binding agent used in making aspirin tablets, as it helps reduce colour intensity so is useful for lightening up too-dark rosés. At the lower end of the consumer scale, cheap American reds are bolstered with
grape concentrate to give more colour and sweetness. In the EU the addition of any grape concentrate is prohibited, and it is actually easier to make natural wines than normal ones. The hands-off approach means less intervention in the growing and maturing processes. So, the logical question arises, why not list ingredients on the label, as food producers are legally obliged to do? The common-sense response is that wine is not an industrial product and is made by an artisan process that can vary from one batch to another. Clearly the big boys may have no trouble listing ingredients, but it would be a nightmare for small producers to have to update labels every now and again. Dr. Ignacio Sánchez Recarte, secretary-general of the Comité Européen des Entreprises Vins (CEEV), which represents the EU’s wine sector, says it’s because wine isn’t made by an industrial process. While the majority of food manufacturers work to a strict, unchanging recipe, winemaking evaluations change with each vintage.

FINE DINING… AT CASA NAVARRA
Although officially in Mijas, this restaurant is only a few meters up the Mijas road from the Fuengirola bypass. It is like a typical Navarra casona, quite out of place on the Coast, and founded in 1990 by Carlos and Merche (daughter Leira is an excellent chef). It really is a little piece of northern Spain on the Costa del Sol. Meat is the speciality, and a variety of large cuts usually found in the asadores (grill houses) of the Basque country are the star turn. Fish is also excellent, and the wine list again reflects the owners’ background. There are dishes on the menu that are not found anywhere else in the area, including kokotxas de merluza (hake cheek). Traditional cheeses and home-made desserts, such as tocino de cielo, should not be missed.

Ctra de Mijas Km. 4, Mijas Costa (Fuengirola)
Tel. (+34) 952 580 439

 

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