United States: Can Water Actually Be Turned Into Wine?

Last Updated: February 1 2017
Article by Michael Newman

Michael Newman is a Partner for Holland & Knight's San Francisco office.

What is "synthetic" wine? The concept is no different than any other synthetic food - but can it really be done for wine? Can water be turned into wine? A business in San Francisco, "Ava Winery," claims it can.

Ava chemically replicates wines, formatting them to smell and taste identical to classic wines by recreating their aromatic and flavor chemical compounds. Ava Winery, in their lab - they do not appear to operate a traditional legal winery - bypasses grapes entirely in the making of their wine, combining flavor chemicals with ethanol and water to reproduce the experience of wine, without replicating the wine production process.Ava reproduces wine chemically, molecule by molecule, without ever touching a grape.

According to their website, Ava Winery claims they have a proprietary methodology that analyzes and produces wine involving various analytical chemistry techniques including gas chromatography mass spectrometry, elemental analysis and other procedures to recreate the composition of a given wine. They then identify the critical components to the experience of that wine flavor and aroma to combine them into a product that approximates the experience of the original. They claim there is nothing in their wine that is not found in natural wine.

It's questionable whether a synthetic "winery" can legally call itself a winery at all, or even label its product as wine. Wine, by legal and regulatory definition, is the product of the juice or must of sound, ripe grapes. (Wine can also be made from other sound, ripe fruit, such as apple wine or from other agricultural products, like rice wine.)

A threshold legal question is whether or not a wine that is not made from fruit or other agricultural products, can it even be considered wine. Under the federal regulations, the synthetic product certainly could not be labeled as wine or grape wine. At best, if the lack of fruit or agricultural product can be legally overcome, the product would have to be labeled as "imitation wine" because of the fact it contains synthetic materials or because the taste, aroma, color or other characteristics of the product have been acquired by special treatment in such a manner to replicate the taste, aroma, color or other characteristics of normal wines. Because the wine is not made from grapes, it would not be eligible to be labeled by its varietal, such as chardonnay or pinot noir, or by appellation, such as Napa Valley or California, or have a vintage date. We are not talking here about that "2013 Napa pinot noir."

Synthetic wine cannot be made merely in a lab by scientists and then sold as such. If a business desires to produce any alcohol beverage including wine, it must obtain a permit from the federal government through an agency of the Treasury Department called the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Because any beverage containing at least 0.5 percent alcohol by volume is subject to federal excise tax, any facility producing wine, beer or distilled spirits must be bonded and pay tax to the federal government on what they produce. In the case of a wine product, this requires a federal wine producer's basic permit and the production facility to register as a bonded winery. Similarly, every state requires some type of manufacturing license and payment of state excise tax.

The regulatory process does not end there. Because it would not be making a natural wine but would be making what would likely be considered a nonstandard, imitation wine, the "winery" would need to submit a formula to the federal government detailing the scientific process for creating the wine and all the specific ingredients that go into creating the wine. The government is looking for the presence of certified or noncertified colors and artificial and natural flavors and whether there are any restricted or prohibited ingredients such as ingredients that have not been recognized by the Food and Drug Administration as "generally recognized as safe." A full disclosure of the process into making synthetic wine would be required. The federal government has the full authority and discretion to approve or refuse the formula. Only a permitted and bonded winery can file the formula.

Then, if approval of the synthetic wine can be obtained, a second step is required before the product can come to market. Federal regulations require that every wine containing at least 7 percent alcohol by volume be approved by the federal government prior to release from the winery and sale in the United States. (Standard table wines contain between 11.5 and 14 percent alcohol by volume.) Upon approval, the federal government issues a certificate of label approval. This is also a rigorous process by which the government reviews the wine label to ensure that the label contains certain mandatory information (such as a warning statement and the amount of alcohol in the wine) and the label accurately describes the contents of the wine. By this process (and the formula approval as well), the federal government will have a great deal of say in how synthetic wine can be made, how it can be labeled and how it can be promoted and advertised and brought or market.

All in all, there are going to be many legal challenges and obstacles to the production, marketing and sale of synthetic wine if this is going to be a product that has any true legs.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.