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replica wineI have to think more about this article by MW Christy Canterbury before commenting but I just wanted to flag it as important. The main issue is what to make of replica wines. Replica wines have been reverse engineered through chromatography and mass spectrometry to duplicate the flavor of a more expensive wine that would be otherwise less available to ordinary wine consumers.

Analyze the liquid in an array of bottles that you want to replicate, access a long list of vineyard sources, work with a talented palate or two alongside a skilled winemaker, and you can make what is apparently an excellent “replica” of a highly successful wine….Replica is the name of a wine brand that does just that. Replica aims to recreate the taste of some of the most popular wine brands in the world. Their targets are large, not limited – as is often the case with fine wine fakes, production items. The company proudly claims that its labels are almost indistinguishable from the “real” bottlings. (I have not tasted them.) Replica makes all of its wines by homing in on a wine’s chemical profile then painstakingly tweaking wines assembled from a variety of sources then further refined in their winery. Replica uses nothing but widely accepted and entirely legal winemaking techniques to create its array of “master forgeries”, as its website calls them.

Canterbury goes through the benefits and potential problems with this concept and is rightly concerned:

Now and with haste, we (and especially prestigious brand holders) need to address these admittedly creative and innovative, yet highly worrisome approaches to crafting a beverage. While certain positive outcomes could come from these two methods of reverse engineering, the horizon looks fuzzy. How the scenery turns out will depend on how these reverse engineering methodologies are used in the longer term.

The wine industry has sold the public on the idea that wine is in part made by nature and the unique characteristics of regions and vineyards matter. Replica wines threaten these assumptions.

My immediate response is that we tend to value originals more than copies and it’s not obvious that wine  that has been reverse engineered will taste like the original. I have not tasted these wines and neither has Ms. Canterbury. No doubt wine is a solution of chemicals but when and how the chemical bonds occur matters. Wine making is a process and what is being replicated is not a process but only the outcome of a process.

But it surely is worth thinking about and addressing.

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