July 8, 2016 – Nothing is sacred it seems. A San Francisco company, cheekily called Ava Winery, is busy replicating wine with nary a grape in sight.
According to “New Scientist”, Mardonn Chua and Alec Lee, the founders of Ava Winery, came up with the idea of a hack after visiting Chateau Montelena in the Napa Valley where they saw a bottle of the famed chardonnay, one of two wines voted the best in the historic 1976 Judgment of Paris wine tasting. Realizing he could never afford a wine like that got Chua thinking about the possibilities of replicating it. So they went to work.
Their first attempt was not too good but they persisted and are now offering synthetic Dom Pérignon for $50.
The wine world is not amused. Wine is very complex and has over 1000 compounds. It is constantly changing and evolving, which has always been one of the most fascinating things about wine. Doesn’t happen to ketchup or milk, that’s for sure. Some consider the idea nonsense. Others shrug it off as a novelty hardly worth taking seriously. Some are angry and consider it theft of intellectual property.
Does man made wine have a place? It might depending on how well and consistently Ava Winery can mimic some of the great wines of the world and provide the tasting experience inexpensively. Can it even be called wine if it is not made of grapes? Wine is a highly regulated product subject not just to U.S. laws but international ones as well. What about the romance and provenance of wine that makes it such a special and satisfying experience? That cannot be replicated. Is it cheating to copy the end result of someone else’s creativity, knowledge and toil? In the art world, when a Picasso that isn’t a Picasso turns up, it’s called fraud.