The NY Drinks NY Grand Tasting, Sustainable Wine Growing and Clean Wines

The NY Drinks NY Grand Tasting, Sustainable Wine Growing and Clean Wines

The annual NY Drinks NY Grand Tasting –now in its 8th year, was held this past  March 26th at the iconic Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Center.

Hosted by  New York Wine & Grape Foundation (NYWGF), the non-profit organization representing New York state wines, wineries and winemakers, the NY Drinks NY Grand Tasting showcases the world of New York wines and welcomes, annually, all oenophiles, amateurs and connoisseurs alike.

In true NY fashion, guests enjoyed more than 200 wines from over 50 wineries based in Hudson Valley, Finger Lakes and Long Island, including many of Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing (LISW)  participating wineries, including Bedell Cellars, Paumanok, Wolffer Estate Vineyard, and Channing Daughters Winery who were presented the first-ever Sustainability Award for their outstanding sustainable viticulture certification program, less than two weeks prior, as part of the organization’s annual Unity Awards honors.

NY Drinks NY also hosted two educational seminars on The Resurgence of Wine Made From Hybrid Grapes led by MS Pascaline Lepeltier and on Red Grapes Across NY led by Sommelier Erin Scala and NYWGF board member of Cornell Agriculture Station in Geneva.

New York Wine & Grape Foundation Brand Ambassador and Sommelier Paul Brady and Executive Director Sam Filler were on-site to answer a few questions regarding clean wines:

Q: What makes wine clean?

A: What makes a wine clean is, in many ways, subjective. What I perceive to be a “clean wine” may not be what another sommelier, winemaker, or expert agrees on as for being “clean.” But, first and foremost it is essential to bring in clean fruit from the vineyard. And again, that will mean many different things to different vignerons. Some will insist that for grapes to be truly a real, sincere expression of the earth that the farming need be organic or biodynamic. Other methods may include different approaches to sustainability or traditional farming. But bringing in clean fruit, free from disease or other ailments will be essential to then apply clean winemaking practices on the crush pad and in the cellar. Talking to winemakers is crucial to having an understanding of this practice.     

Q: What process behind clean wine?

A: Again, process and results will vary from each expert you ask. A wine that is cleanly made by one’s set of criteria may not taste “clean” to me or others, even if that was the intent behind the process. Some of the world’s most sought after wines may contain additives or have been structurally altered in ways that some would deem unnatural, or unclean. On the contrary, some wines that fit that same category will have been impeccably farmed and produced from start to finish. Finished wines can present themselves equally as clean even if the process they went through was different.    

Q: What are other factors we should consider when it comes to clean wine such as organic, local, bio-dynamic etc.?

A: Clean is a tough word. A word I have an easier time understanding in this context might be “real.” Real wine is wine made to be an artisanal product for those searching for an expression of not just structurally fine or delicious wine, but also a wine that expresses its time and place, or typicity. When considering what to drink, transparency becomes useful. Not every wine region in the world is able to grow grapes organically, but that doesn’t at all mean that more traditionally farmed grapes can’t make excellent wine. What’s important is to just know what the process was and determine for oneself if that process seems acceptable to be putting that wine in your body.    

Q: Can you recommend a few great clean wines? 

A: Sure! I’d recommend drinking rieslings from the Finger Lakes. They show a very distinct sense of the region’s terroir, based on climate, conditions of the vintage, soils, the different vineyard sites and how it all relates to the lake’s dramatic effect of cooling off the grapes in the summer and keeping them protected in the winters. The wines refresh, are versatile at all levels of dryness or sweetness, and can age well. Another sort of magical grape in New York is Cabernet Franc. Cabernet Franc is a red grape grown all over the state and produces brilliantly clean, fresh, rich or lighter bodied wines, depending on the style of the grower and winemaker, from all the major AVAs — Long Island, the Hudson Valley, the Niagara Escarpment, the Finger Lakes and beyond.

About the New York Wine & Grape Foundation (NYWGF) The New York Wine & Grape Foundation promotes the world-class image of New York grapes and wines from the state’s diverse regions to responsibly benefit farmers, producers and consumers through innovative marketing, research, communication, and advocacy. Learn more at

About Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing, Inc. LISW is a not-for-profit organization that provides education and certification for sustainable farming practices in growing premium wine grapes on the East End of Long Island, New York. LISW provides vineyards with third-party certification recognizing agricultural practices that are modeled after international standards for sustainable farming. The goal of LISW is to (1) communicate sustainable grape growing practices in an understandable and certifiable manner, (2) highlight shared principles and practices among participating vineyards and wineries, and (3) forge better relationships with consumers who make environmental awareness a priority. For more information, please log on to

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