If you live in Australia or New Zealand you may have bumped into bottles of wine labeled as ‘cleanskins’. Simply put, it is a wine without marketing. On a cleanskin label the main details us, the consumers, receive is the name of the grape varieties used, the year of production and sometimes the region.
Australian law also requires the label to state the; alcohol content, volume, additives and standard drink information. Which is fair enough. However unlike other wines, there is no mention of the producer and no fancy labels to entice us the buyers to purchase something based on the prettiness of the label. Because the marketing and distribution costs are less on cleanskins, this also brings down the overall price of the wine. To be honest I would rather pay for a decent bottle of wine over a half-assed attempt with a stunning label.
The most important thing to note about cleanskins is that you can have an amazing bottle one day and then the next day have the worst bottle. Cleanskin wines are made for various reasons; some are made especially to be turned into cleanskins but others were once branded wines that were re-bottled and sold at a much cheaper price. The latter may be due to cancelled export orders, end of vintage or oversupply issues.
The reason cleanskins are so popular in Aussie and NZ is due to the oversupply of wine made throughout the 2000s. This way, less wine is going to waste, which to be honest is what us Australasian’s see as a deadly sin – wasting wine. In Australia due to the emergence of cleanskins, prices have dropped so low that cleanskin wine can be bought cheaper than bottled water! This is not to say that the quality is dead awful but the main message is that cleanskins are value for money (prices start at about AU$5 and up).
I actually thought it was quite obvious why they are called cleanskins however the term comes from the nam for unbranded cattle. It is also a term used to describe undercover police agents in Australia. So we have wine, cattle and police …. Interesting ménage a trios.
If you’re keen to try a wine lucky dip, then check out the following sites:
http://www.winelarder.com.au/ (Delivers Australian-wide)
http://www.cleanskins.com/ (Sydney, Australia)
http://www.cleanskins.biz/ (Victoria, Australia)
http://www.wacleanskincellars.com.au/ (Western Australia) I will also mention that these guys do personalized labels, which is an awesome idea for a wedding, birthday, anniversary or other special occasion.
http://www.cleanskinwines.co.nz/ (New Zealand)
http://www.ktb.co.nz/ (Napier, New Zealand)
http://www.winenetwork.co.nz/ (Auckland, New Zealand)
My last piece of advice when buying a cleanskin is that you should be able to try some in store, most retailers do offer this. If they don’t, and are hesitating opening a $5 bottle for you to try then you should seriously question your purchase. In this case it would be better to go back to your old faithful branded bottle in order to sidestep disappointment.