CLOSE
ISTOCK
ISTOCK

A San Francisco Company Is Making Wine ... Without Grapes

ISTOCK
ISTOCK

Wine has been around for around 9000 years, and with 895 million gallons sold in 2014 in the U.S. alone, it’s safe to say the process is working pretty well for everyone.

Mardonn Chua and Alec Lee beg to differ. Last year, Smithsonian reports, the pair were wine tasting in the Napa Valley when a bottle of (much heralded and relatively pricey) Chateau Montelena chardonnay got them thinking: Is there a way to replicate the flavor of wine at a fraction of the cost?

That’s what they’re trying to do with the San Francisco-based start-up, Ava Winery. Their winemaking process takes the grapes out of the equation entirely, using a mix of amino acids, acids, sugars, volatile organics, and ethanol to simulate the fermentation and aging that are the hallmarks of the real thing.

Chua wrote a detailed post on Medium if you’re interested in a deeper dive on the methodology, but basically, Ava Winery aims to “turn water into wine” by combining the same compounds that are in a traditionally crafted bottle (or box, no judgments here). As expected, it’s been a work in progress, with techniques like gas chromatography mass spectrometry now in place to determine the chemical building blocks in say, a rosé or Malbec.

You can currently purchase Ava Winery’s take on the 1992 Dom Pérignon Champagne for just $50 (it would cost you upwards of $150 for the real deal), but the synthetic wine reportedly still has a ways to go to before becoming a convincing mimic. New Scientist did a blind taste test and let’s just say the words “cleaning alcohol” and “plastic bag” were used to describe the faux vino, though one tester did offer that it “tastes better than it smells.”

Time will tell if consumers are interested in hopping on the grape-less wine bandwagon, and critics are of course skeptical about how far it can really go, especially when much of wine’s cachet is related to the land itself and geographical location. But who knows, someday we might be putting a premium on a 2016 pinot from a lab in northern California.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Lists
7 Surprising Uses for Tequila
iStock
iStock

Happy National Margarita Day! While you could celebrate by having a few drinks, you could also skip the hangover by unlocking one of tequila's amazing abilities outside of the glass. Many spirits are useful for activities beyond sipping (vodka, for example, is a great stain and odor remover), but tequila holds some particularly magical powers. Here are just a few of them.

1. SYNTHETIC BAUBLE

In 2008, a team of scientists in Mexico discovered that when the heated vapor from an 80-proof tequila blanco was combined with a silicon or stainless steel substrate, it resulted in the formation of diamond films. These films can be used in commercial applications, such as electrical insulators, or to create one big fake diamond. Who knew that spending $50 on a bottle of Don Julio was such a wise investment?

2. ALTERNATIVE ENERGY SOURCE

Keeping with the science theme: In 2011, researchers at England’s University of Oxford suggested that we may one day be gassing up our cars with tequila. They identified agave, the plant from which tequila is produced, as a potential biofuel source—and a particularly attractive one, as the plant itself is not consumed by humans and can thrive in desert climates.

3. WEIGHT LOSS SUPPLEMENT

Scientists have long promoted the potential benefits of the agave plant for its ability to help dissolve fats and lower cholesterol. The bad news? These properties get a bit diluted when the plant is distilled into alcohol. Even more so when it's whipped into a sugary margarita.

4. SLEEP AID

Take three or more shots of tequila and you’re bound to pass out. A single shot can have the same effect—just not in that drunken stupor kind of way. Relaxation is one of the positive side effects of tequila drinking; a small amount (1 to 1.5 ounces) before bedtime can reportedly help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly.

5. COLON CLEANSER

Too much of a good thing may not bring a welcome turn of events for your liver … but your colon will thank you! Researchers at Mexico’s University of Guadalajara have identified the blue agave as a potentially helpful source for delivering drugs to the colon in order to treat colitis, IBS, Crohn’s disease and even cancer.

6. DIABETES PREVENTATIVE

If Ernest Hemingway had known about the healing properties of tequila, his signature drink might have been a margarita instead of a daiquiri. In 2010, experiments conducted at Mexico’s Polytechnic Institute of Guanajuato revealed that the agave plant (which is high in fructans, a fructose polymer) could stimulate the GLP-1 hormone, aiding in increased insulin production.

7. COLD REMEDY

“Plenty of liquids” is a well-known remedy for getting oneself out from under the weather. But expanding that definition to include a kicked-up shot of tequila makes a day laid out on the couch sound much more appealing. In the 1930s, doctors in Mexico recommended the following concoction to fight off a cold.

.5 ounce of tequila blanco
.5 ounce of agave nectar (to eliminate bacteria and soothe sore throats)
.5 ounce of fresh lime juice (for Vitamin C)

Though some people (including tequila companies) swear by its healing powers, others say it's hogwash.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Smart Shopping
16 Geeky Coasters to Keep Your Coffee Table Safe
iStock
iStock

Avoid unsightly ring stains on your coffee table with this delightful selection of coasters:

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. FLOPPY DISKS; $22.79

Floppy disks are not obsolete—at least in your living room area.

Buy on Amazon.

2. MARIO; $20

Mario Question Mark Block Coaster Set
Etsy

Unfortunately, no coins will be coming out of these coasters, but they will keep your table dry.

Buy on Etsy.

3. GAME OF THRONES; $12.99

Game of Thrones coasters
HBO Shop

Avoid a royal mess with house sigils of houses Targaryen, Stark, Baratheon, and Lannister.

Buy at the HBO Shop.

4. PACMAN; $20.95

Use these on a black table to recreate the retro video game.

Buy on Epic Giftables.

5. AGATE; $35

Rock on: These fancy agate coasters will look solid resting under your glass.

Buy on Amazon.

6. ELEMENTS; $56.99

These glowing coasters are perfect for chemists, Breaking Bad fans, and anyone who forgot to pay their electric bill.

Buy on Amazon.

7. BUILDING BLOCKS; $19.99

Build your own coaster with this LEGO-esque design.

Buy on Amazon.

8. STAR TREK; $16.63

Star Trek ship coasters
Amazon

This ceramic set celebrates all the best ships from Star Trek.

Buy on Amazon.

9. DR. WHO; $22.99

Just make sure you don’t accidentally send your glass into a different time period when you set it down.

Buy on Amazon.

10. RILAKKUMA; $1.95

Rilakkuma coaster
Bonanza

Cover your counter space with the cute face of Rilakkuma.

Buy on Bonanza.

11. HARRY POTTER; $50

Set of wood burned coasters featuring the crest of each Harry Potter house
Etsy

All the houses are present in this set of wood coasters.

Buy on Etsy.

12. FALLOUT; $25

fallout coasters
Etsy

Just because it’s the end of the world doesn’t mean all manners go out the door: Never forget to use a coaster!

Buy on Etsy.

13. BRAIN; $19.99

This set comes with 10 coasters, each with a slice of brain specimen. When you’re not using them, you can stack them together to create a full brain.

Buy on Amazon.

14. THE LAST AIRBENDER; FROM $13

Aang and his entourage face off on these wooden coasters.

Buy on Etsy.

15. BUFFY AND CO; $20

Getting totally wigged by the idea of a stained table? All your favorite characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer can give you an assist.

Buy on Etsy.

16. STUDIO GHIBLI; $25

Studio Ghibli Stone Tile Coasters
Etsy

These coasters feature scenes from the classics My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Howl's Moving Castle.

Buy on Etsy.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios