After launching programs to replace humans, the techno-scientific geniuses of Silicon Valley have come up with a biblical project, to say the least: turning water into wine. More precisely, to make a totally synthetic wine. A wine that, according to the first tasters of this beverage, has the taste of wine, its colour, its texture, its perfume, but is made from water mixed with a few well-chosen chemicals. A wine without grapes, is that reasonable?
" We can turn water into wine in fifteen minutes! ». This is what Ava Winerya San Francisco startup that specializes in making synthetic wine without grapes, simply by combining aromatic compounds and ethanol with water.
According to The New ScientistMardonn Chua and Alec Lee came up with the idea for this synthetic wine while visiting a famous winery in the Napa Valley in California. While being presented with an emblematic American wine, Château Montelena, which apparently rivaled the best French vintages in 1976 (?) the two startupers felt frustrated not to be able to afford this expensive bottle. So why not reproduce it?
In general, since wine has existed, the recipe has always been more or less the same: wine is made by fermenting the grapes and a yeast transforms the sugars in the grape juice into ethanol. The process also develops several hundred aromatic compounds, which is what makes the quality of the wine. But the winemaker's alchemy can take a long time, with variable results. Wouldn't there be a simpler way?
After several months of trial and error, the two sorcerer's apprentices, by dint of a combination of aromas, subtle dosages, and certainly some well-prepared liver attacks, managed to produce their first "wine". A first experimental synthetic wine that imitates the taste of Moscato d'Asti, the famous Italian sparkling wine. Drunk of their first success, they plan to reproduce... a Dom Pérignon champagne.
This is not the first time that people have tried to imitate food products. There is synthetic vanilla, sugar, sodas, etc., and there are many other products. But wine is another matter. It's a living product, and each bottle can contain a thousand different components. This is what makes it possible to characterize wine, to give it its nobility for the great vintages or its piquette look for the others. Imitating wine is therefore a challenge that our startupers are trying to overcome. Accompanied by the expert taste buds of a renowned sommelier, equipped with mass spectrometers and other complicated tools, they have analysed in detail the composition of the main known great wines. They identified the key aroma molecules and their concentration. Armed with these ultra-precise diagrams, they blended them until they obtained a convincing result. Synthetic wine is composed of tannins, glycerine and sugar to reproduce the mouthfeel and viscosity of the wine, and several aromatic compounds. All this is mixed with 13 % of ethanol and 85 % of pure water.
Needless to say, most oenologists, sommeliers or simple lovers of good wines have doubts. According to some, it is impossible to reproduce the secret alchemy produced by the microbes that ferment in the grape, which are released gradually and mix with the other components in such a subtle way. It is impossible to imitate the scent of the terroirs, the landscapes, and the entire history, art and culture of a wine.
Proponents of synthetic wine highlight its economic side. This "wine" breaks the prices and this is a bit normal since it dispenses with the whole cultivation and vinification phase. But is it enough to convince those who love wine? The French winemaker Julien Miquel sees only one interest, in some way archaeological or patrimonial: that of recreating great classic vintages. But the technique still has to follow.
Finally, one last small detail: synthetic wine can never be called "wine", a highly regulated name. It will have to find another name: bibine?!