A San Francisco startup has a unique Mother’s Day gift: artificial wine, made without the need for grapes
The Wine Curmudgeon has waxed philosophic many times about the future of wine criticism, most recently with the arrival of artificial intelligence. Machines might be able to improve upon what one researcher calls the “exercise in pretentiousness” that is a wine review.
And what better product for artificial intelligence to review but artificial wine? And just in time for Mother’s Day, too.
We can thank a San Francisco startup called Ava Winery, where “wine” is made in a lab from a combination of ethanol (the alcohol bit), water, sugar and assorted chemicals. No grapes needed, of course, because they just get in the way, what with farming, harvesting, and the rest of that foolishness.
Is this a joke? Far from it, for Ava’s founders already have millions of dollars behind them from two multi-nationals, and are getting ready to embark on the fairy dust adventure that is venture capital funding.
Technically, Ava does not make wine, since a product called wine must, by law, contain grapes; I wonder how they’ll get around that on the label. But that hasn’t stopped the company, which expects to launch three “wines” next year – a pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, and moscato. There is already a prototype for the last (and you can imagine how much it pained me to type that sentence).
Esther Mobley, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, bends over backwards to be fair to Ava, but eventually has to ask the most important question: Why does the world need artificial wine? What’s wrong with what we have now?
The Ava founders hem and haw, but don’t really have a good answer. My guess is that they’re doing it because they can, that the technology exists, and that they can get rich doing it. Which is all well and good, since that’s the way the world works. But it does seem to be a lot of trouble to go to create something that, in the end, will not be much different than Cherry Coke with a buzz. Which is not why most of us love wine.