There are few beverages that inspire as much exclusivity, connoisseurship, and extravagance as wine. However, despite the fact that wine is one of the world's most popular alcoholic beverages, few of us will ever have the chance to sample any of the world's finest vintages or most coveted bottles.
It was this very fact that first inspired Mardonn Chua and Alec Lee of Ava Winery to try their hand at making synthetic wines that mimic the taste, smell, and texture of some of history's most coveted bottles. During a tour of a Napa Valley Winery, the pair was taken aback while viewing a coveted bottle of Chateau Montelena when they realized that they would never have the opportunity or resources even so much as to sip the famed vintage. Soon after, Chua and Lee began their mission to bring the world's most iconic wines to the masses, synthetically producing history's best bottles for a fraction of the cost.
So what, exactly, is synthetic wine? First of all, it doesn’t involve any actual grapes. Instead, synthetic wine is a combination of water, alcohol, and chemical compounds designed to mimic the flavors of traditional wine. In order to create a “recipe” for synthetic wine, the scientists first analyze the chemical make-up of an existing vintage, and then use their own compounds to mimic the flavors, smells, and mouth-feel of the original.
While this may sound simple enough (if a little bizarre), the process is trickier than it seems. A single bottle of wine can contain over 1,000 distinct compounds, and skeptics are wary of whether Chua and Lee will ever be able to account fully for all of these natural flavors using only chemical components. Nevertheless, Ava Wineries claims to have produced an accurate copy of the sparkling Italian wine Moscato d’Asti, and its scientists are already working on replicating a 1992 bottle of Dom Perignon.
Whether or not the pair is successful in the eyes of trained wine connoisseurs, however, might be entirely beside the point. While “real” bottles of Dom Perignon regularly retail for several hundred dollars, the first batch of the mimicked champagne will cost a mere 50 dollars, and prices are only expected to decrease as demand increases. Personally, we would be more than willing to give synthetic wine a shot, especially if it means that we can finally drink our favorite beverage with an air of sophistication usually reserved for bottles that cost significantly more than the ones we regularly pick up for ten dollars at the grocery store.