Australian Cleanskin wines are wines that are bottled without a label or anything else to identify it (still meeting minimum legal requirements of course). Wineries, from Small to Big and Famous, will sell their wine under cleanskin when they have excess yield of wine, or unwanted wine stocks, as a quick way to deal with the unwanted/excess, to sell the wine cheap -as-chips without the negative effects on their reputation or wine brand (if they did have their brand on wine so cheap).
Cleanskin wines therefore do not have much to do with the Quality of the wine. There are many fantastic wines under cleanskin from famous winemakers that you would usually pay $20-$50 for per bottle, selling at $12 a bottle. However, there are definitely also many horrid wines (horrid in my opinion anyway) available in the cleanskin market which are truly cheap nasty wines (not to mention the nasty hangover too).
Many stores also sell cleanskins with their own store label on it, for about the same price – these should be called store branded or own branded products, but anyway. Stores such as Kemeny’s and Vintage Cellars do this. These are still cleanskins.
Back to Kemeny’s (at Bondi and online @ http://www.kemenys.com.au/), they have a great cleanskin wine range, called “Hidden Label”, where the winemaker’s name is hidden on the label (sort of like a ‘Where’s Wally’ thing – And really hard to find when drinking!). Kemeny’s also rate each wine themselves, displayed with the price. It takes a little bit of thinking to decide on whether a cleanskin is good or not (unless you already know who made it or a friend recommended it etc), but you can also always ask if you’re actually in the store for advice on cleanskins, same as the other stores.
Another good store is The Wine Point at Birkenhead Point (www.thewinepoint.com.au/), which specialize in Cleanskin wines and Personalised wine labels. I mentioned it before as they supplied a recent wine dinner (click here to see) and everyone enjoyed the wines before knowing they were cleanskins.
Generally most people pick cleanskins on the Region and the typical grapes that grow well in it, such as a Shiraz from Barossa or McLaren Vale, Pinot Noir from Mornington Peninsula or some other cool climate region, a Riesling from Adelaide Hills, or a Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough. I strongly pick on Year as well, and at the moment I try and hunt for anything before 2007 for Reds and basically any year for Some Whites since they’re often made to drink ‘fresh’. GSMs (Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre) from Barossa is my favourite catch! As well as Shiraz from McLaren Vale. One of the cleanskin wines I don’t think you can go wrong with generally is Dessert/Sticky wines, since most wineries do pretty delicious ones.
Cleanskins are honestly a great way to find great wines for a great price if you’re a little careful about avoiding the cheap-in-quality-too ones. If you’re saving $10-$25 a bottle which is what you can save on average with cleanskins, you’re saving $120-$300 a case. I have many that are ageing really well too! Worth looking into…