"Test tube wines are upon us." So says Carson Demmond in his recent Food & Wine magazine article of the same name. What he's referring to is Ava Winery and if you thought our preceding post about Replica wines and their efforts to copy popular wine styles was alarming, Ava is a copycat of a whole other order. They choose to bioengineer their creations without fermenting grapes!
So Ava Winery is a winery in name only. It's actually a lab with proprietary technology that proposes a methodology using various analytical chemistry techniques including Gas Chromatography Mass Spectometry among others to understand the composition of a wine Ava wants to reproduce. They want to identify and determine the ratios of each of two hundred molecular compounds to each other so they can reproduce a wine's flavors and aromas.
Alec Lee and Marchonn Chua are the evil scientists here and they claim they can turn water into wine in fifteen minutes once the analysis stage is over. Vegetable glycerin provides the body in the concoction before tartaric acid, malic acid, tannin powder, sucrose, and everclear ethanol provide the more common components. The finished product will have the same amino acids, sugars, volatile aromatic compounds and alcohol as the wine it is copying.
Like Replica, Ava is transparent with regard to their creative processes with no desire to insert extraneous additives to their product which sounds odd considering what they do. They are also respectful of wine history, terroir, and the labor implicit in farming and vinification which makes them admirable, again, considering what they are doing.
To date Ava, an American Viticultural Area pun, has only taken orders for their first release. They intend to sell through their website at the beginning asking $50 per bottle for reproductions of wines that could command thousand dollar prices. You can get on a waiting list at their website. Since this is essentially groundbreaking work and bureaucracy being what it is, Lee and Chua expect a lot of hurdles to overcome before getting into wide distribution.
Lee and Chua also see themselves as pioneers of a future time when synthetic foods will be the order of the day. Perhaps their wares may be found in the Star Trek episode vending machine that delivered the beverage of choice keyed in by the thirsty space traveler.