“Engineering wines to perfection molecule by molecule.” That’s the tagline of Ava Winery, which is creating synthetic wines without grapes, yeast, or even fermentation.
Mardonn Chua and Alec Lee are the entrepreneurs behind Ava Winery. They create compounds with ethanol that mimic the chemical composition of wines, but that will sell for much less money. The full process involves experimenting with mixes of amino acids, sugars, and ethanol, and they have also tried mimicking the taste of 1992 Dom Perignon.
If you’re interested in the detail-by-detail mechanics involved in mimicking wines, read Mardonn Chua’s Medium post here, where he lays out recipes tried during experiments.
Ava Winery has shown tenacity in the face of critics, too. The editors at New Scientist grabbed headlines when they compared Ava Winery’s Moscato to a plastic “pool shark,” with “essence of plastic bag,” which prompted the winery to respond: “Nothing resembling plastic is an ingredient in the wine, taste is deeply subjective.”
Ava Winery sees the promise of its form of “hacking” extending beyond just wine, and its founders note: “This is what the future of foods looks like: food will be scanned and printed as easily as photographs today. These digital recreations will be identical chemical copies of the originals, capturing the same nutritional values, flavors, and textures of their ‘natural’ counterparts. Part scientists and part artists, our canvas will be macronutrients like starches and proteins; our pixels will be flavor molecules.”
Indeed, Ava Winery’s vision of creating synthetic wine is hardly the only game in town on the synthetic food and wine scene. Memphis Meats, impossible Foods and other companies are focused on synthetic meat and food, and Beyond Meat has gotten rave reviews for its synthetic burgers and also gained interest from both Bill Gates and his former Microsoft buddy Nathan Myhrvold.
In fact, Gates has penned a very interesting post titled “Future of Food,” where he notes the following: “The chicken taco I ate was made using Beyond Meat’s chicken alternative. I wasn’t the only one fooled by how real it tasted. New York Times food writer Mark Bittman couldn’t tell the difference between Beyond Meat and real chicken either. You can read his review here.” Gates has put his money where his mouth is and invested in Beyond Meat, as have others.
A video on Beyond Meat’s vision of taking animal protein out of the food chain is available here:
And then there’s the Impossible Burger. While Beyond Meat is working with other burger joints like Burgerfi to put their meat-alternative in the hands of consumers, Impossible Foods -- the brain child of DNA microarray inventor Patrick O. Brown -- decided to not only create a plant based burger that bleeds, but to create a national chain of restaurants -- to sell the Impossible Burger.
While Ava Winery is focused on triggering the same pleasure receptors that are triggered when we consume a traditionally fermented fine wine, companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have the potential to create inexpensive alternatives to meat that could make a profound nutritional difference for people all around the world.
According to Ava Winery’s Alec Lee: “Today we’re on the cusp of significant technological breakthroughs in food production the likes of which have never been seen before. It took humanity nearly 10,000 years of agriculture to develop many of the crops and animal herds we consume today. It took only a few centuries to develop the farming tools that have culminated in large-scale, efficient mechanized farming. And it only took decades to marry science with food allowing us to directly manipulate the genetic constructs of our food.”
It’s worth watching Lee’s video, where he expands on these concepts and explores Ava Winery’s strategy:
Image credit: Flickr user Star5112