When friends Cameron Diaz and Katherine Power learned about the additives used in some wine production and the industry’s lack of clear labeling requirements, they were shocked. With so many people increasingly conscious about the ingredients in other consumable goods, how could such a dearth of transparency be acceptable?
Wine lovers, the two decided to change that dialogue by establishing their own brand. Named Avaline and launched in July, the label advocates for more informed purchasing through straightforward labeling. It offers a trio of vegan still wines, as well as a just-released sparkling wine, made by winery partner and famed Spanish sparkling wine producer Raventos i Blanc. All selections are made with organic grapes and nutritional information is included on the bottle. While all ingredients are currently disclosed on the brand’s website, Avaline has announced that from 2021, the information will be included on all product labels as well.
Here, we dish with the duo about why they entered the wine biz, how they determined their lineup and what exactly “clean wine” means to them.
“Our goal as a brand is to offer transparency around ingredients and nutritional information in the wine without sacrificing taste.” –Katherine Power
How did you decide what kind of wine you wanted to make?
Katherine Power: Avaline was born out of our personal need to understand how the wine we were drinking was being made and to explore and raise the standards that we were looking for when it comes to wine. Our goal as a brand is to offer transparency around ingredients and nutritional information in the wine without sacrificing taste. The blends were developed to be delicious, easy-to-drink, everyday wines that appeal to a broad range of taste preferences and occasions.
Cameron Diaz: We built Avaline around the needs of our community: what they care about, where they shop, and the look and feel they gravitate toward. They want wines with high-quality ingredients, and as few of them as possible. Wines that have minimal intervention, no added colors, concentrates and sugars, and are vegan-friendly. Organic and vegan are two well understood terms that proved to be very influential on purchasing decisions, so we put both very clearly on the label. The label on the outside inspires confidence with ingredient and nutrition transparency.
Katherine and I have different palates. For red, I go more towards a heavier wine, like a Cabernet Sauvignon, and she goes more towards a lighter Pinot Noir. For white, I go more towards a Sancerre, or Sauvignon Blanc, while she goes more towards a Pinot Grigio. Rosé, we agree on. As we created Avaline wines, our goal was to meet each other in the middle. We were successful in finding wines that speak to both palates.
KP: The wines we created for launch are extremely easy to drink. They are everyday wines, and they taste delicious. We wanted a white that would appeal to not just a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio person, but also to somebody who likes Chardonnay. The resulting wines are all blends we feel are universally appealing.
Finding the right partners started with finding people who already knew how to make wine that met our criteria: organic grapes, vegan and using as few additives as possible. From there, it came down to the taste profile of the wine and the ability of the winemaker to grow with our business.
CD: It was all of that and getting to learn more about their history and farming practices. It was incredible hearing the stories of these winemakers that had been farming for multiple generations and the care that they have for their land. In most cases, our growers are harvesting by hand and planting for biodiversity. Some of our growers use natural pesticides and deficit irrigation, but only as necessitated.
KP: It was also important for our winery partners to produce certified organic grapes. All of our wines are certified organic by the various entities that tests, audits and certifies organic in each of the various regions and countries like Spain and France. Since our white wine comes from the Catalonian region, the CCPAE—Catalan Council of the Organic Production—is the authority in Catalonia that audits and certifies our winery partner and Avaline White Wine as organic. Our Rosé, coming from Provence, is certified by Bureau Veritas. And Avaline Red Wine from the Rhône region is certified by Ecocert.
What led you to source your wines from the respective places they’re made, France and Spain, without more specific notes of appellation or origin?
KP: When we started talking to our consumer about what they looked for in wine, they told us they were looking for a certain flavor profile from a brand they trusted and connected to. Interestingly, and counter to traditional wine knowledge, the country of origin, appellation and varietal were less important to them. Guided by that insight, we sought out the regions that were masters of the flavor profile we were looking for.
CD: We wanted to make a mineral-driven, dry white wine, so we turned to [winery partner Can Ràfols dels Caus], a vineyard in Penedès, Spain, run by a multigenerational family who has owned their land for over 100 years. The land itself has been used for viticulture dating back to Roman times. They farm with no chemicals, organic fertilizer, hand pick the grapes, dry farm and use indigenous yeast for fermentation. The family manages the entire process from vineyard to bottle.
KP: For the rosé, we wanted a crisp and clean wine, so we turned to the experts in Provence and teamed up with a family [Famille Negrel] who has owned their domain [Mas de Cadenet] for over 100 years, predominantly producing rosé. The family believes strongly in organic farming and has practiced this method for generations with minimal intervention.
How active were you in the production of the wines?
KP: The two of us built Avaline from the ground up for over a year before we made our first full-time hire. We knocked on doors, met with countless experts, traveled to the winemakers in Europe and sampled hundreds of blends to ultimately create a range of wines that we are proud to put our names on. Avaline is far from a celebrity brand, but rather a product we felt compelled to create for our community and the rest of the world. We also conducted consumer feedback studies both on Instagram and with in-person focus groups. On Instagram, we asked about everything from taste profiles to bottle shape to label messaging in order to gain an understanding of what is most important to our target customers when they shop for wine.
CD: I have said this before, but I stand by it: It’s just as easy to slap a label on a “celebrity” as it is for a celebrity to slap a label on a bottle, so I get why people might think that’s what Avaline is. But I’ve never slapped my name on anything. I’ve always done the work, even though it’s never felt like work to me because I only pursue what I am passionate about.
Avaline’s branding says the wines are “clean.” What does that mean to you?
KP: We are very used to seeing the term “clean” when it comes to categories like food and beauty. Now, consumers are asking for the same standards when it comes to wine. “Clean wine” is made from organic grapes, with minimal intervention and without unnecessary additives. Our wines are vegan and are free from added sugar, color and concentrates. Avaline’s label is a jumping-off point for greater transparency. Consumers can dive even deeper into the details on the wine on our website as well.
CD: We believe a delicious clean wine starts with organic grapes. All of our grapes are grown on certified-organic vineyards. We also believe that our consumer wants to be assured that what they are drinking is vegan, which we put right on the label.
Why do you think there’s been concern with the term “clean wine”?
CD: The term clean has been used in other industries, like beauty, for years, but using the term in wine is relatively new. The Millennial consumer knows it as a signal for products with ingredients they can trust. For us, “clean wine” is a way to help our drinkers find the wine that aligns with their criteria: organic grapes, no unnecessary ingredients and, of course, a vegan product. When we went out to find wines that met these standards, we couldn’t easily walk the grocery aisle and identify them. That’s because the wine industry hasn’t chosen to emphasize these attributes historically. The consumer is demanding that things change. That’s why we feel there’s a need for a term that’s recognizable and easy to understand. Accessibility and education are very important to us as a brand.
KP: We are not the first to use the term “clean wine,” but our mission is to make this level of ingredient and nutritional transparency the norm. Not a crazy expectation, but something that hasn’t been required by the regulating body of the wine industry. It should be as easy for the consumer to understand as it is with food and skin products. We are not here to challenge the traditional wine industry. We are here to invite them to be more transparent.
If you were to compare Avaline to a fashion style or film, what would it be?
KP: Your favorite, high-quality, day-to-night basics that are chic but perfect for everyday occasions.
CD: The Holiday because Avaline wines are perfect for enjoying at home while you shamelessly sing and dance to your favorite song.