Perhaps coming soon to a wine shop near you, an almost-perfect copy of a high quality wine made in a laboratory using no grapes and no fermentation.
Fevered dream of a sci-fi writer? Not according to the folks behind Ava Winery in San Francisco. In their appeal for investors, founders Alec Lee and Mardonn Chua wrote:
“In 2015 we found ourselves face to face with a $10,000+ bottle of wine that permanently changed the wine industry and legitimized wines from the New World. That bottle was a 1973 Chateau Montelena, and it was hopelessly out of our reach. But what if we could recreate it, molecule by molecule? Certainly it should taste the same. And while the replica might not bring as much pleasure to our egos as drinking a $10,000 bottle of wine, it should bring pleasure to our palates.”
They have not yet produced a clone of the 1973 Chateau Montelena in a test tube, but they have succeeded in making a copy of moscato according to journalist who have tasted traditional moscato alongside Ava’s synthetic version. The journalists report the Ava effort had elements of artificial taste, but noted many grape-wine-based efforts share an element of artificiality.
Many popular grape-based mass-market wines have significant chem-lab manipulation, from added sugars, acidifiers, enzymes, designer yeasts, micro-oxygenation, reverse osmosis, and more. In the view of Ava’s founders, making wine without using grapes is just the next step in this process. They assert that in recent blind tests, 90 percent of tasters failed to find the difference between Ava’s moscato and natural wine.
Co-founder Mardonn Chua wrote on the website Medium that in the beginning he bought his ingredients off-the-shelf at a brewery store and a grocery store. After the first experiments, he reported “It is not a good wine yet, but it was acceptable enough to drink.”
Co-founder Alec Lee later wrote on the same website: “The next frontier is our ability to produce food from its molecular components and replace the need for resource-intensive, often unethical food-growing practices. These ‘synthetic’ foods aren’t just possible, they’re inevitable.”
Ava’s eventual copy of Romanée-Conti may never be 100 percent perfect, but at one-thousandth of the price, it would be worth a sip.
Last round: Warning in wine bar: Drinking wine may make people in this place appear better looking than they really are.