If you like what's in your wine glass, do you really care about the name on the label? The knockoff wine brand Replica is hoping that most drinkers do not — promising to deliver through all the taste of a top vineyard selection at a fraction of the cost. This upstart wine label, launched in early June, seeks to make wine that mimics almost exactly its pricier and critically-acclaimed counterparts. After spending years analyzing taste and aroma profiles, the beverage company stated in a press release that they had finally "reverse engineer today’s most popular wines." The company has since introduced a selection of five red and white wines (with three more in development). According to Replica, thanks to science, that favorite Cabernet Blend that you can only splurge on for your birthday can be your new table wine.
"We ensure at least 90 percent chemical similarity to the wine by which each was inspired, in notes such as acid, butter, caramel, citrus, earthy, floral, fruity, herbal, nutty, oaky, smoky, spicy, sweet and tannic," said analytical chemistry laboratory president Jaclyn Bowen. Replica's website refers to their wine as "master forgeries," all tasted and approved by head sommelier Brett Zimmerman before touching a bottle. But just because something is similar to the original doesn't mean that it is able to capture its essence. A poster of Starry Night on your dorm room wall may be an exact picture of the masterpiece, but that doesn't mean that your friends suddenly think they've been transported to a museum.
In order to find out just how much of a bargain this imposter wine is, Mental_Floss put their palate and Replica's claims to the test. Following instructions on the website for a "blind tasting," they filled two glasses with Replica's Pickpocket red blend, and one glass with wine from a 2014 bottle The Prisoner. One of the most recognizable Napa Valley premier red wine blends, The Prisoner usually retails for $45, and its imposter, Pickpocket, is sold for approximately $25 (still too much for most of us, TBH). The six tasters were tasked with determining which of the three glasses was more expensive — and, surprisingly, five out of six picked Replica.
Judging how "expensive" a bottle of wine is as a measure of its quality and tastiness is essentially flawed. Just because a wine is pricey doesn't mean that it tastes good to everyone. Depending on the wine, cheaper varietals may be easier to drink. The tasters were not impressed by either bottle, Mental_Floss reports, "There were similarities in the flavors of both wines, but the Replica wine was a bit sweeter and tasted rougher compared to its inspiration."
Replica states on its website that wine is more expensive than it should be because "you're paying for a fancy brand name instead of what is in the bottle." However, most winemakers and sommeliers will tell you that wine is expensive for a reason. Yes, label recognition is a thing, but the price is also augmented by the scope of production, yearly weather conditions, attention paid to the grapes, and the maker's expertise. You are paying for the magic that happens in a glass bottle when the climate, weather, terroir, the aging process, and human interaction combine to make something truly special. Of course you can chemically engineer wines to mimic certain key elements, but it will always be missing that ingenious spark and stroke of luck that makes a good wine great.
That being said, I will never say no to a glass of vino. Even if it is a forgery.
Images: Peter Forest/Getty Images, ReplicaWines