Tom's blog

Can wine be made in a lab?

I can't imagine anything more disgusting than drinking a laboratory-concocted wine from a test tube. That's what a San Francisco start-up has in mind -- wine made in a lab without any grapes.

I can't even get past the name -- Ava Winery -- not to mention what it is attempting to do with a natural product. The project allegedly began when Mardonn Chua and Alec Lee were visiting a California winery and saw a bottle of the Chateau Montelena that beat its French counterparts at the 1976 Paris Wine Tasting. Unable to ever taste such an iconic wine, the mad chemists wondered if they could create a synthetic wine that would match the cabernet sauvignon's flavors. And, off they went to their laboratories.

The basic process of turning sugar into alcohol by introducing yeast can be duplicated by simply adding alcohol. It cuts to the chase. But trying to mimic the 1,000 esters that give wine its flavor is another matter. Chua told various news outlets that he can add, say, ethyl hexanoate for the pineapple-like aroma and have wine in 15 minutes and a far cheaper price.

I can't wait.

Their first product wasn't Chateau Montelena, by the way. It was suppose to be chardonnay, but it tasted so bad they switched to Moscato d'Asti. Never mind that the world is hardly waiting in line for a sweet sparkling wine from Italy, but a synthetic one? Well, I guess I relax that they have chosen a crappy wine to imitate.

They say the next step is to produce an imitation of Dom Perignon for $50. Yeah, right.

Wine critics who dared to put the moscato into their bodies were not impressed, from what I read. One talked about the odor that reminded them of an inflatable pool shark. Others said the concoction tasted like -- now here comes the surprise -- chemicals.

I can't imagine the field day federal regulators will have with putting "wine" on this label, not to mention analyzing the chemicals fit for human consumption.

I guess inventing a product that will turn the world upside down and make a lot of money is an all-American goal, but this one makes no sense. When consumers are demanding fewer chemicals in everything from bread to wine, who would want to buy a fake, all-chemical wine -- even if it was good?