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No grapes necessary — Ava Winery makes fine wines molecule by molecule

When it comes to consumables, the tech world has given us lab-grown meat, “shrimps” made out of red algae, and now — thanks to one pioneering San Francisco winemaker — synthetic wine. Called Ava Winery, the startup wants to democratize the pricey business of drinking wine by taking it out of the vineyards and into the lab, where different wines can be re-created artificially based on their taste chemistry.

“We can make wine without grapes or fermentation, recreating it molecule by molecule,” CEO Alec Lee told Digital Trends. “Our goal is to be able to scan and print wines the same way you can scan and print priceless family photos. Ultimately, this technology will also allow us to make better, cleaner, faster wines with less impact on the environment.”

Lee describes the company’s mission as making “high-quality wines at price points available to the masses, indefinitely.” Instead of grapes, the wines are produced using molecules sourced from companies which manufacture them for the food industry. The “scan-and-print” approach Lee describes involves using gas and liquid chromatography, along with mass spectrometry, to determine the component parts of each wine. Unlike the unpredictable business of making high-quality wine (which is why people get so excited about particular vintages), Ava Winery says that its solution solves this problem — since re-creating particular wines is just a matter of following a recipe.

“Every year is a great year for these wines because they’re not at risk to changing climate, crop disease, or contamination,” he said. “These wines significantly reduce agricultural water requirements, as well as the presence of pesticides and heavy metal contaminants in the products, because each molecular component can be sourced highly pure. Our products are more stable after being opened and can be stored in the fridge longer than traditional wines, without going bad.”

Currently, the company’s wines are not on sale to the public, although Lee says they hope to have the first products — reportedly including a Moscato d’Asti, a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Pinot Noir — on the shelf within a year.

“This is the future of winemaking the same way that computers are the future of art,” he concluded. “Traditional winemaking will hopefully continue to be part of our society forever. But in the same way that computers democratized art, we hope to be able to democratize great quality wines for the masses to enjoy.”

Color us intrigued, with an optimistic bouquet, and expectant finish.

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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