If there was one change that I most noticed in wine sales in Australia last year, it was the proliferation of “cleanskins”. These wines will usually only have the most basic of labels, with varietal, regions and year, but no producers name or tasting notes.
Read on, to find out more about this new method of wine distribution and marketing.
These wines tend to retail in the $5 – $15 market and will often match their varietal with a region well known for that varietal. Eg. Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, Clare Valley Riesling and so on.
Many reasons are given by retailers for the existence of cleanskins;
Plus many others. Of course the reason that concerns me the most, and obviously isn’t going to be stated by a retailer, if if the grapes or finished wine weren’t up to standard and nobody was willing to put their name on them. A number of wineries suffered from bushfires in Victoria for the 2003 vintage, and are releasing their wines as cleanskins because of the overly smoky nature of the finished wine. I can understand that a winery may need to do this from a commercial standpoint, but it’s hard to see much of a benefit from a consumer standpoint.
It is almost impossible to tell what a cleanskin will be like until you have actually opened one, since they will be vastly different from retailer to retailer and from vintage to vintage. I guess the motto has to be “try before you buy”, but when there are perfectly good labelled wines retailing at a similar price point and with some measure of track records and public reviews to judge against, it seems to me that the success of cleanskins is somewhat unexpected.
How prevalent are cleanskins in countries outside of Australia? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and if this practice is appearing elsewhere.