One of the top bucket-list items for wine connoisseurs is a chance to try one of the winning wines from the Judgment of Paris.
The 1976 wine competition pitted California Chardonnays and red wines against French offerings. The world expected France to easily walk away with a victory, but when the (French) judges finished their blind tasting, California scored top honors in both categories — and subsequently became a major force on the world wine scene.
Getting your hands on one of those original bottles — such as the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, which won the white category — will cost you tens of thousands of dollars. (In 2010 a bottle of that wine sold for $11,325 at auction.) But what if you could buy an exact replica, precisely recreated molecule by molecule, for less money than you likely have in your wallet right now?
Ava Winery is trying to make that happen. Rather than trying to reconstruct the terroir and conditions those grapes experienced, though, this San Francisco start-up, founded by two bioengineering grads last year, is foregoing things like grapes and yeast altogether. Instead, it's using chemicals instead of grapes or fermentation to replicate wine.
"We analyze the molecular profile of a wine; then we can recreate it," says Alec Lee, co-founder of Ava. "Once we make one liter, we can make 10,000 liters."