Recently, while attending a class for wine appreciation, a student asked whether or not wine could be manufactured in a lab. The teacher said, “Yeah, sure,” in response but did not offer any kind of explanation. I was rather disappointed in the response given, since it seemed to reduce wine to a basic kind of drink. I thought it had been a great opportunity for the teacher to educate the students, but one that was passed over.
The answer the teacher gave was correct, nonetheless. Theoretically, wine can be made in a lab. Practically, though, it would be an almost impossible task.
Wine is quite the complex beverage, consisting of thousands of complex and simple organic compounds. Many of these compounds have not even been identified yet, though it has been stated that most of the grape’s chemical compounds in wines that add the flavor and aroma have been identified now. Some of the organic compounds in the wine includes sugars, phenols, acids, alcohol, aromatic and amines compounds. Each of these compounds contribute to the flavors and aromas of the wine. Other organic compounds also found, such as thiols and aldehydes that can give an off-flavor or cause the wine to spoil. Each of the compounds are synthesized within the grapes through the process of growing and ripening. They can also be formed through the process of fermentation from certain yeast and from the operations of winemaking like barrel aging. There are other compounds that are inorganic that come from the soil and the nutrients from it.
Each of the compounds in the wine are in different concentrations. Some are trace amounts while others are measurable. They come in countless permutations and combinations as well, and are all a function of the many varieties of grapes, kinds of yeasts, differences in practices, factors such as climate and soil, all making creating wine in a lab a pretty impossible job.
It is an interesting question, though. Why should we try to reduce the lovely wines to a solution produced in a lab, though? I think we should all sit down over a glass of wine to explore this question more.