“We can turn water into wine in 15 minutes.” So says Alec Lee, the co-founder of Ava Winery, the San Francisco-based start-up that claims to be able to make wine without grapes. Instead, its team of bio-technologists uses a mix of sugars, acids and flavonoids to create a synthetic, lab-made libation “molecule by molecule”. The idea came when Lee saw a bottle of $10,000 Château Montelena 1973 in a restaurant in 2015.
“I thought, what if I could identify all its components and recreate it? Surely, wine is nothing more than a collection of molecules?” Now, the company reckons 90 per cent of blind tasters can’t tell its wine apart from the real thing. Its first commercial release is set for the end of this year. Lee also says he will soon be able to chemically recreate rare vintages. “This isn’t a counterfeit business,” he says. “The pitch is not to trick consumers they’re buying the real thing, it’s to have the same experience at a much lower price.” Cheers to that.