While many can relate to a moment of engaging conversation with a friend over a glass of wine, how many can say a business came of it? Well, such was the case for Cameron Diaz, whose new clean wine brand Avaline sprouted from a very relatable moment with friend and co-founder Katherine Power.
“We were just talking one day and started to see that we were making all these efforts across our lives, from buying organic groceries to non-toxic personal care products to clean skincare, yet we were sitting here drinking wine and had never thought about it,” says Power, who also founded digital and consumer products company Clique Brands (which includes fashion company Who What Wear), in a phone interview with The Zoe Report. “We turned the bottle around and were reminded that there is no list of ingredients or nutrition facts on the label. And that set us off on a journey.”
While the two friends (who met through Diaz’s sister-in-law and Power’s longtime pal Nicole Richie) knew the gist of where wine originated from — grapes — everything else about the process was a mystery. And the fact that there wasn't much information to be found on packaging was concerning. “We both kind of came from this place of having never questioned what was in wine,” says Diaz to TZR. “We thought it must just be fermented grapes ... in a very naive way. We dug in a little bit deeper and found that there were up to 70 ingredients that were allowed to be used in the winemaking process.”
And while that number alone was surprising, the most shocking tidbit for the two women was that animal byproducts are included on this list. According to a 2018 article by Wine Enthusiast, animal products like egg whites can be used as a processing aid to speed up the wine clarifying process (known as fining). Other animal products like casein, gelatin, and isinglass (derived from the bladders of sturgeon and other fish) are sometimes used “to remove excess solids, off flavors, and excess phenolics (tannins in both red and white wines),” writes contributing editor Anne Krebiehl MW.
Diaz explains that it was a challenge to find wines free from these agents. “There was no information or labeling about how the wine was made. And even if we asked a sommelier at a restaurant or a sales person at a wine shop, they couldn’t really tell us or give us the answers we wanted.”
According to the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), the required information on any wine label includes: alcohol content, color of ingredient disclosures (if applicable), country of origin, health warning statement, name and address of brand, net contents (which indicates how much wine is in the container or bottle), and a sulfite declaration. That’s it.
This revelation compelled the women to not only share their learnings but also offer a solution: Avaline. “[Our wine] is made with organic grapes, first and foremost; it’s vegan and free from all the unwanted extras that are commonly added to commercial wine,” says Power. “We’re using organic or bioidentical yeast and with minimal intervention.” Any and all other ingredients involved in the making of Avaline wine can be found on the brand’s website (on the FAQ page).
The brand, which officially launched in July 2020, currently has two wines to its name — white and rosé — with bottles retailing for $24. While available for purchase online, the label is also available at select retailers in 43 states (plus the District of Columbia.)
Avaline joins a new trending wave of conscious wine businesses going the clean route of late. Yes, brands like Good Clean Wine and Winc's Wonderful Wine Co. are also taking a more minimalistic, organic approach to the adult beverage. Like Avaline, these wines include organically grown and biodynamically farmed grapes, using natural fermentation processes. "It goes back to not having all those ingredients," says Diaz. "They're just tools. But, for our winemakers, they use very minimal [ingredients], just those that we feel are necessary. We want to drink wine that doesn't have all that intervention."
And while Avaline's finished product is indeed a vegan marvel, updating (or paring back) an ancient practice like winemaking to exclude some of the tried-and-true ingredients that perhaps had rarely been questioned before is about as complicated as it sounds, especially for two women who had never dabbled in the wine space. "This business has been like learning a foreign language," says Power. "From actually learning the winemaking process to how you go to market and structure an adult beverage business."
The journey involved meeting with a laundry list of experts in the adult beverage category and winemakers. "It's a very old-fashioned industry with a lot of restriction on how the wine is sold, but not a lot of restrictions on how the wine is made," says Power. "It was truly like going to school on nights and weekends. It was very challenging and very fun — and great to be able to do it together."
Though, for some, going into business with a good friend might seem like a tricky situation to get oneself into, the Avaline founders didn't think twice about it. "I have had a very successful 14-year partnership with another friend named Hillary Kerr," says Power with a laugh, referring to her Clique Brands co-founder. "The secret to a great partnership is really sharing the same mission but having very different skillsets. That's the case here."
Diaz seconds this notion, adding that mutual trust has also played a big role as they transitioned to business partners. "We carved a new path together," says Diaz. "Look, no one forced us to do this. It was really out of the spirit of friendship and fun. That's why there's that emphasis in Avaline. We just wanted our wine to be about friendship because that's how it started for us."
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