Grape-free wine developed in America

A grape-free wine made by cloning hundreds of the chemical compounds found in wine has been developed by scientists in a warehouse in San Francisco.

Josh Decolongon, one of the three founders of Ava Winery

Biochemists Alec Lee, Mardonn Chua and Josh Decolongon have created a synthetic Moscato d’Asti at their lab in the San Francisco borough of Dogpatch.

The team are currently working on a Pinot Noir, which, like the Moscato, is made from a combination of ethanol, water, sugar, amino acids and an array of chemical compounds that give a wine its taste, aroma and body.

When is a Moscato not a Moscato?

Among the compounds they’re working with are ethyl butyrate, which gives a pineapple aroma, sotolon, which gives a caramel taste, methoxypyrazine, that gives bell pepper notes and diacetyl, which smells like butter.

In the lab the trio break down red and white wines into their component parts in order to analyse their molecular structure, then source the molecules from companies that synthesise them commercially for the food industry.

Mixed in precise amounts with water, ethanol and sugars, the molecules produce a copy of the original wine.

The trio, whose company is called Ava Winery but is registered as a spirits distiller given the nature of its products, hopes to put its first wines on sale in the US by the end of the year, with an estimated retail price of around $20.

Ava Winery has secured various investments, including $2.7 million from Hong Kong-based Horizons Ventures, which helped fund the creation of the world’s first plant-based burger developed by Impossible Foods.

“There is an inherent scarcity to great wines. When you go to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa it isn’t a consumptive act, but to enjoy a wine, you have to destroy it,” Lee told SF Gate.

“There’s a snobbery in wine that doesn’t correspond with people’s actual taste. We just want to go after core flavours and make it taste good,” he added.

According to SF Gate, the Moscato smells like “the juice of canned peaches or packaged fruit salad”.

Lee reports that a bottle of synthetic Moscato that has been open for a year still hasn’t oxidized, hinting at the possible benefits of synthetic wine for consumers.

The question is, will consumers be prepared to pay $20 for a wine made in a lab? And with fake wines continuing to plague the market, the ability to clone famous wines might prove catnip for counterfeiters and conmen looking to make a quick buck.

Lee and his team have already been asked to “make a Lafite”, but they insist they are not interested in trying to forge the masterpieces of the wine world, but rather sell the wine equivalent of the posters in the gift shop.

3 Responses to “Grape-free wine developed in America”

  1. Easy on the sotolon guys! Check out the video of tasting the artificial and real Moscato here

    At first I thought it was a set up, when even visually there appeared to be a marked difference and the guy on the left was able to discern its acidity on the nose!

  2. VANTAGE21 says:

    I’d love to taste a Pinot Noir that smells bell pepper!!!! That wil be a change!!! Beside, it is clear that a “wine” must come by law from grapes only

  3. VANTAGE21 is obviously too young to remember New Zealand reds in the 1980s when every variety including Pinot Noir had a distinct Bell Pepper aroma! Oh to be that young again …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our newsletters

Marketing Manager

Amathus Drinks Plc
London, UK

Partner Manager - Managed On-Trade

Maverick Drinks
London, UK

Brand Manager

Hatch Mansfield
Ascot, Berkshire

Events Sales Executive

The Drinks Business Hong Kong
Hong Kong

Head of Sales

London, UK

Logistic and Fullfilment - Whisky (and wine) administrator

Stilnovisti Ltd
London, United Kingdom // Dufftown, Keith, United Kingdom

Account Manager

Harviestoun Brewery
Field Based, UK

Buyer - Spain & South America

London, UK

Events Sales Manager

Field based - London or surrounding area


5th Nov 2018

Exploring Beaujolais Wines Across The Years & Appellations

Manchester,United Kingdom
6th Nov 2018

Pink Rosé Festival

7th Feb 2019
Click to view more

Rioja Masters 2018

Deadline : 26th October 2018

The Global Pinot Noir Masters 2019

Deadline : 1st November 2018

Click to view more

The Global Sparkling Masters 2018

As with all of the drinks business awards, our judging panel is comprised of Masters of Wine, Master Sommeliers and senior buyers making the competition globally renowned.

Champagne Masters 2018

Enter your wines into the Champagne Masters 2018, the only blind competition dedicated to Champagne in the UK.

Click to view more