By Mike Pomranz
Updated May 16, 2016
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To a wine fan, it doesn’t just sound like science fiction; it sounds certifiably insane. That was my instinct when I read today’s headline on New Scientist: “Synthetic wine made without grapes claims to mimic fine vintages.” Is that really possible? In short, the answer is no… or at least not yet.

Ava Winery, a synthetic wine startup based in San Francisco, has not only already started working on these wine reproductions, they plan on selling a limited number of bottles of a Dom Perignon-mimicking bubbly as soon as this summer. Their process involves using scientific tools like gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to identify flavor compounds within wine and then mix these with ethanol to recreate all sorts of different varieties. The company went so far as to tell New Scientist, and this is a real quote, “We can turn water into wine in 15 minutes.”

But the future is not here yet. Two members of the New Scientist team tried a blind taste test between a real Moscato D’Asti and one that was created by Ava. Since Moscato is a sweeter, somewhat less complex wine, it seems like it might easier to mimic. But the taste testers – who didn’t even appear to have a professional wine background (“this smells grapey”) – were easily able to pick out the synthetic wine based on its weird smell and not so great aftertaste: two things you don’t necessarily want in any wine, let alone a fake one.

Still, Ava Winery is a relatively young startup. The idea was only conceived last year so maybe the products will improve. Or maybe they’ll find a niche as a novelty. But for now, the robot wine revolt appears to be at bay.