The TTB Weighs in on ‘Clean Wine’

Call it an early Easter basket surprise for those of us who aren’t fans of denigration marketing. In its newsletter today, the Alcohol and Tobacco Trade and Tax Bureau (TTB), who are responsible for the regulation of alcohol commerce in America, just gave a big thumbs down to those wineries who have been marketing their wares under the banner of ‘Clean Wine.’

If they come across producers using the term ‘Clean Wine,’ says the TTB, “consumers should not interpret the term as meaning that the beverage is organic or has met other production standards set by TTB.

The TTB goes on to note that sometimes producers use the word “clean” to describe a quality of taste, such as a finish that is “clean and crisp.” But that’s not what they’re worried about.

We would consider those claims to be misleading health-related statements

TTB on the use of the term ‘clean wine.’

The TTB goes on to say, “In other cases, the term is used together with other language to create the misleading impression that consumption of the alcohol beverage will have health benefits, or that the health risks otherwise associated with alcohol consumption will be mitigated. For example, ‘X malt beverage is clean and healthy’ or ‘Y vodka’s clean production methods mean no headaches for you.’” 

About those kinds of statements, and the implications of the categorical label of ‘Clean Wine,’ the TTB is unequivocal: “We would consider those claims to be misleading health-related statements.”

This is obviously not a legal ruling, nor is it a commitment to specific enforcement, but the TTB is not mincing words here, and I think sending a pretty clear message.

In short, Cameron Diaz and crew, as well as a lot of other trend-following wine marketers are going to have to stop using the term, or get a lot more creative about how they use it, for fear of facing actual penalties from the TTB.

I’m not quite sure how stiff a penalty the TTB would levy in the course of such enforcement, but their fines have been known to run as high as several hundred thousand dollars or even $1 million in a couple of cases.

I’m sure Cameron Diaz has pretty good lawyers. Let’s see how long it takes for the Avaline website to change, shall we?