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US startup matches wines to your DNA

A Silicon Valley wine delivery startup is offering what could be the ultimate personalised wine experience – analysing a customer’s DNA to then match wines to their individual tastes.

Vinome claims it can match wines to your individual tastes, determined by your DNA

Vinome, based in northern California’s wine country, claims it can predict your taste preferences based on your genetic makeup, allowing it to match you with wines it thinks you will enjoy.

For about $65 a bottle, with a minimum purchase of three bottles – plus genetic testing for $199 – customers can receive wines that are “perfectly paired” to their DNA based on 10 genetic variants, determined via a saliva sample.

“There are over 400 genes that code for the cells on our tongue and in our nose that allow us to distinguish between different tastes and smells (called taste and olfactory receptors)”, explains Vinome of its science.

“Even small variations in the DNA code for these genes can result in BIG changes in the way you taste and smell, and explain why you may love kale and Brussels sprouts salad, while your dinner date turns up his or her nose.

“The scientists at Vinome curated hundreds of scientific studies to isolate genetic variations that are shown to be associated with taste and smell. Then we performed our own scientific study, inviting hundreds of people to taste and rate an array of wines, distinct in varietal and flavor profile, while also testing their DNA for key genetic variants. The result? A simple genetic test that reveals the code to your Vinome – your unique, distinct wine palate, defined by your DNA.”

While the science behind the selection is sketchy at best, the work being carried out by Vinome presents an interesting sidebar to the world of wine, and the possible future of its marketing.

What’s more, the company has a big name backer behind it, having just signed a deal with Helix – the world’s biggest DNA sequencing company, part of Illumina.

Illumina launched Helix at a cost of $100m, and will see genetic scientists team up with app developers to search for creative ways to use a customer’s genetic data, which could open up a new frontier of DNA-based targeted marketing.

“The genomics industry is no longer just about clinical precautions and general health. It’s quickly touching all areas of our lives, from family planning, to nutrition, to ancestry,” said Robin Thurston, CEO, Helix.

“We’re building a powerful platform for DNA discovery that enables anyone to connect with relevant, personalized applications from well-known consumer brands, trusted healthcare providers, innovative developers, and everything in between.”

Next year, Vinome will roll out an app in partnership with Helix. But despite millions of dollars being ploughed into this area of research, critics says we still don’t know enough about genetics for it to work effectively.

Speaking to Business Insider, medical geneticist Dr Jim Evans, a professor at the University of North Carolina, called the idea “completely silly.”

“Their motto of ‘A little science and a lot of fun’ would be more accurately put as ‘No science and a lot of fun,’” said Evans. “I’d put this in the same category as DNA matching to find your soulmate,” he said. “We just simply don’t know enough about the genetics of taste to do this on any accurate basis.”

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