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Certain major cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin (BTC), DogeCoin (DOGE), Ripple (XRP), and Ethereum (ETH), are now seen as a great APM (Alternative Payment Method) for millions of online casino players around the world.
Here is a closer look at why so many players prefer to use cryptocurrency to deposit and withdraw at their favourite online casino rather than traditional payment methods, such as Visa, MasterCard, Skrill and Paysafecard.Why do online casino players prefer using cryptocurrency rather than traditional payment methods?
Online casino players prefer using cryptocurrency to deposit and withdraw at online casinos for a number of reasons. Firstly, not everyone likes using their credit or debit cards at websites, which is where APMs, such as cryptocurrencies and digital wallets, come in. Digital wallets are also known as electronic wallets, e-Wallets, or web wallets.
Cryptocurrency enables the player to remain anonymous. Also, don’t forget that the cryptocurrency payment method is far more secure than traditional payment methods.
Online security is the number one priority for many players, which is why they choose to pay with cryptocurrency. It’s quick and convenient, super reliable, and highly secure.Which online casinos accept APMs?
Some online casinos accept more APMs than others, but, unfortunately, there are currently no UK-licensed online casinos that accept any cryptocurrencies. Instead, UK players can use several other APMs, such as Apple Pay, Skrill, NETELLER, PayPal, Paysafecard, and one or two other reliable methods.
To find out which of today’s best online casinos accept APMs instead of just the Visa and MasterCard credit & debit card options, the best thing to do would be to do a Google search. You could type in phrases such as ‘online casino skrill deposit’ or ‘online casino bitcoin deposit.’
In fact, the official Mr Gamble website has done all the hard work so that you don’t have to, so instead of randomly ‘Googling’ for Skrill casinos, you could go straight to this reputable online casino review site.
Some of the best UK online casinos that accept Skrill right now are the following top 10 fully licensed online casinos:
Leo Vegas Casino
Mr Rex Casino
Magic Red Casino
Lucky Vegas Casino
Jackpot Paradise Casino
Mr Vegas CasinoHonourable mentions
Other honourable mentions include Binostars casino, Vegasland Casino, Britain Bet Casino, Spinyoo Casino, Jaak Casino, and NetBet Casino, to name just a few great sites. All of these APM casinos accept Skrill and don’t forget that they have all been reviewed for you on the Mr Gamble website.
If you don’t like using cryptocurrency or your credit/debit card at online casinos, then you may want to consider using Skrill instead. It’s free to sign up to. It’s free to use, and it’s also really easy to use.
The minimum deposit amount with Skrill at most online casinos can be $/€/£5.00, $/€/£10.00 or $/€/£20.00, depending on which casino you sign up to, and the maximum withdrawal amount might be $/€/£10,000.00 per transaction. Each casino is different in terms of its maximum daily, weekly, or monthly withdrawal amount or the maximum amount you can withdraw per transaction.
This is one of the reasons why it’s always a good idea to read the casino’s withdrawal policies before signing up to any casino site. It’s also a good idea to check that the casino you are about to sign up to does accept your preferred payment method.
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Despite some Apple device users being skeptical of using Apple Pay for security reasons, many are embracing the power of NFC payment technology everywhere it is supported.
If you’re like many Apple Pay users, then you might have more than one credit or debit card linked to your Apple Pay Wallet. If this is the case, then it would be good to know how to choose which card is set as the default card when you choose to carry out payments at the register.
In this tutorial, we’ll show you how that’s done.Why to choose a default credit/debit card in Apple Pay
By default, Apple Pay will utilize the first credit or debit card you add. This is going to become your default payment method card every time you try to use Apple Pay at a supported merchant, even if you add more than one card, and will require you to change to another payment method manually if you choose to use another card instead.
Rather than letting iOS choose what card your payments through Apple Pay get defaulted to, you will be happy to know that there is a manual override that you can use to set your own Apple Pay default card from the Wallet app.
This is useful when you know a balance on one of your credit cards is getting too high and you want to switch to another card instead of continuing to rack up purchases on your current card, and also helps a bunch when you’re too lazy to constantly switch over to another payment method manually.How to change your Apple Pay default card
To change the default payment method from Apple Pay you’re going to need to follow these easy steps:
1) Launch the Wallet app from your Home screen.
2) Tap and hold on the card you want to use as your new default payment method.
3) While holding, drag it to the front of the list of credit and debit cards, then release your finger from the screen.
4) A confirmation message appears telling you that you’ve changed the default payment method. Tap OK.
And that’s all there is to it. By re-ordering your cards, the card that is on top of the list will now be brought up by default when you attempt to use Apple Pay to pay at supported merchants.You can still use other cards
Just because you’ve changed your Apple Pay default card doesn’t mean you can’t use your others anymore; quite the contrary.
Despite having changed your default payment method, you can still always tap on an alternative payment method while the Apple Pay screen displays as you’re completing a transaction and the payment will go through using that alternative payment method instead.
What you’ve done in this tutorial is simply change what card iOS will try to pay with by default, and this is nothing more than a convenience feature.
You can always change your default payment method over and over, so there’s no reason to worry if you’ve set the wrong card as the default payment method.Wrapping up
It’s easy to change the default payment method in Apple Pay via the Wallet app, and it’s a good idea to do it so you know charges always go to the credit or debit card you want them to instead of one that you don’t want them to go to.
If you’re looking for a durable aluminum stand for your Apple notebook, then don’t count out iQunix. Although the popular brand names look appealing and are tried and true, we had the chance to go hands-on with the iQunix Edin, which is also a very high-quality stand for all MacBook models, all this at a lower price.
In this review, we’ll show you how the iQunix Edin looks and touch on its build quality and features. Don’t be shy; we think you’re gonna like it!iQunix Edin: an affordable tank of a notebook stand
I always find myself putting my MacBook on another table, or off to the side somewhere so I can use my desk for writing or other hobby activities. The only problem is, I have a 15″ MacBook Pro and no matter where I put it, it’s going to take up a lot of space.
Notebook stands are a great way to utilize a three-dimensional volume of space rather than just setting the computer flat down on a surface. They utilize the thinness of Apple’s notebooks by standing the machines up vertically, allowing you to push them right up to a wall and still have an empty desk for other things.
Since I was in the market for a notebook stand, I thought I’d give the $40 iQunix Edin a try, being that it’s marginally less expensive than a lot of the name brand competition and is still made out of quality aluminum materials.
I was not disappointed…
The iQunix arrived in a box on my doorstep last week, and it was a relatively heavy box. When you think of aluminum, you expect something light-weight, but it actually has a desirable weighted feel to it, which makes it great for anchoring my heavy 15-inch MacBook Pro on my desk without tipping over.
On the side of the stand, you’ll notice a metal adjustment knob. You can loosen it and then move the slide forward or back so that you have enough room for your computer.
It’ll squeeze down nice and tight for thinner computers like the MacBook with Retina display or the MacBook Air, or you can put your big fat non-retina display MacBook Pro or PC notebook inside of it too!
Once happy with the width, you can crank down on the knob to lock it down in place.
The bottom of the iQunix Edin has a nice textured rubber surface, which keeps the stand from moving around on your desk and prevents slipping. This is great because it anchors your computer securely on your desk.
And of course, what would a stand be without charging compatibility? – iQunix Edin provides easy access to your Magsafe or USB-C connector so you can charge your Mac while it sits:My thoughts on the iQunix Edin
I know there are some better-looking brand names out there, but honestly, the iQunix Edin doesn’t look all that bad, and its finish matches the MacBook Pro almost exactly.
I like the weight of the stand, because it prevents the Mac notebook from getting knocked over or pushed around, and the grips on the bottom of the stand help with this as well. I also really like the grips on the inside, because they anchor the notebook without scuffing it up.
Overall, the stand is about $10 less than its competition from companies like Twelve South, and the fact that it’s fully-adjustable means you can tailor it to any needs you might have.
If you were to ask me if it was worth the purchase, I’d tell you to give it a go! This is my first notebook stand, and I’m already in love with it.
Here’s a pros and cons list:
Grips on bottom and interior prevent slipping and scuffing
Easy access to all ports
All-aluminum construction looks good and is durable
Adjustable clamp knob allows it to work with all Mac notebooks
For the affordable price of just $40, you can have yourself an iQunix Edin stand for your Mac notebook from Amazon. I’m certain I would buy one of these again if I needed a laptop stand, and I am impressed with the build quality I can see from using it. I say give it a try!
The truth is, if you can wrap your head around a fiat payment gateway, you’ll be able to understand the basics of how crypto payments processors work too — they both operate on similar principles.
A payment gateway is effectively an application as a service that taps onto online retailers, e-businesses and traditional brick-and-mortar businesses to authorise the processing of transactions. Visa is currently the largest payments gateway in the world, and without it, in many instances, there would be no connecting force between the services charging accounts and the merchants requesting the charge.
Similar systems operate in the crypto world, enabling merchants to accept crypto payments in addition to fiat currencies. This is incredibly important, as it reduces barriers to payment. After all, the number of businesses that weren’t willing to hop on the contactless credit card revolution is negligible – giving customers comfort in payment is a no-brainer, regardless of personal opinions on the kinds of payment methods that they use.
Diving deeper into the similarities and differences between crypto and fiat payment gateways, the inner workings of Bitcoin payment providers, integration types and best practices is key to our overall understanding of these connecting forces. Indeed, that’s exactly what we’ll be doing today.What Are Crypto Payment Gateways?
While not identical to fiat payment gateways, there are some similarities. Crypto payment gateways are services that allow merchants to accept cryptocurrency payments as part of a general ethos of accepting online payments This could be on an e-commerce platform, a website, a mobile app or even an offline brick-and-mortar store. The gateway’s role here is to process and transfer the crypto payments, depending on the needs of the merchant, be it a ‘hands-on approach’ to crypto or a ‘hands-off’. At the moment, the biggest cryptocurrency payment system by volume in the world is CryptoProcessing by CoinsPaid. With 9+ years of experience and a monthly transaction volume of over €1 billion, the platform takes first place as a market leader. However, many other platforms offer similar services, assisting their clients in accepting payments in crypto.Benefits of Accepting Cryptocurrencies for Businesses
Understanding the role of crypto payment gateways requires a deeper dive into the benefits that merchants are able to tap into via offering crypto as a payment method. Indeed, there are many.
Firstly, crypto is a borderless, instant medium of payment. There are 180 currencies in circulation, each limited to the jurisdiction of mint. Great British Pounds may not be used in the United States without a conversion to US Dollars and vice versa. With cryptocurrencies, payment becomes universal, borderless and instant. International transfers can often take up to five working days and can be incredibly expensive on the customer’s side. This reduces their willingness to spend – hardly a good outcome for the merchant.
For instance, UK-based private jet service, Mirai Flights, was able to increase its revenue by 30% since partnering with CoinsPaid to accept cryptocurrencies. Due to instant nature of digital asset transactions, over 10% of the company’s fliers now pay in crypto.How Do Cryptocurrency Payment Gateways Work?
Cryptocurrency payments integrations can look quite different to that of fiat payments on the merchant side. This is mainly because there is an ‘instant conversion’ mechanic at play which converts the crypto into a fiat balance such as EUR. There are usually familiar processes when it comes to both deposits and withdrawals – after all, with an online gaming business, there is often the option to ‘top up’ some kind of balance which can then be withdrawn at a later stage.
When depositing crypto, a user will likely see a “crypto deposit” option on the merchant’s site, being invited to choose the kind of crypto that they choose to pay in;
According to the input information, an address with a QR code will be presented to the user;
Depending on the user’s preferences, they may choose to either scan the QR code using their phone, which will then open the installed crypto wallet on their smart device, or copy and paste the address manually into the built-in interface of their crypto wallet application;
The user will then initiate the transaction, during which the payment processor will make an automatic exchange of the received crypto into the desired fiat balance;
The merchant’s system then receives an API callback with the information about the deposit including the transaction’s status, currency pairs, amount, fees and so on;
Lastly, the amount is added to the user’s EUR balance on the merchant’s site.
Withdrawals are just as simple, and they start with a fiat balance on the merchant’s portal and a user request to withdraw in crypto.
The user will interact with a ‘crypto withdrawal’ option on the merchant’s site, being invited to choose the kind of crypto they wish to be paid in;
They will then be invited to insert their address for payout;
According to the input information, the site makes a request to the processing party;
The payment processor makes an automatic exchange from the selected fiat currency, such as EUR, to an indicated cryptocurrency, such as BTC;
The merchant’s system receives an API callback with transaction parameters, including the transaction’s status, currency pairs, amount, fees and so on;
Lastly, the user’s EUR balance is decreased as per the transaction amount.
With every cryptocurrency payment processing gateway, there is a certain degree of flexibility as to the way in which users will input their information and confirm transactions. A big element of that flexibility relates to payment methods. CoinsPaid, for instance, offers a variety of options to fit any business model:
Invoices without restriction of payment time. Here, the user chooses a currency of payment themselves without a time restriction. The rate will be fixed when the user confirms their payment currency.
Invoices with payment time restriction. Here, the user chooses a currency of payment themselves, but the time restriction will be 15 minutes starting from the creation of the invoice.
Payment Channel Networks. These are blockchain-based systems that allow for numerous, fast and cost-efficient transactions between two parties for a set amount of time.
Plugins. These are pieces of software that integrate into an existing program as a pop up or an embedded payment portal, for example.
Payment links. Simply, a link is generated and sent to the client over email or an instant messenger such as Whatsapp.Integrating Cryptocurrency Payment Gateway
Crypto payment providers, such as CoinsPaid, tend to integrate via API. If you’ve ever integrated another service’s API onto your platform, such as that of an automated KYC vendor, this will be a familiar process to you.
If you’re unfamiliar with what an API is, it’s effectively an interface that allows the merchant’s website to ‘talk’ to a platform’s server.
Before you commit to a service, the team behind a crypto payment platform will aim to provide you with a demo account so you can get comfortable beforehand. Here, you’ll be able to familiarise yourself with the merchant dashboard and test all the tools, but some pre-test steps are usually required from you. As is the case with CryptoProcessing by CoinsPaid, you’ll be invited to download a testnet Bitcoin wallet, before acquiring testnet coins by visiting a designated website and entering your address, generated in the testnet Bitcoin wallet.
If you choose the hands-on approach and hold cryptocurrency on your books, you can choose which digital assets you want to store the funds in and set up automatic conversions of the incoming crypto revenue into this currency. You can set up withdrawals from the CoinsPaid account to an external crypto wallet. Often, merchants have a cold wallet, like a Ledger or Trezor, and store larger amounts there for extra security.
Alternatively, if you choose the hands-off approach, then in the dashboard you can set up automatic conversions into fiat, like USD or euro, when using the processing API. Also, you can make a withdrawal of fiat to a bank account, you’ll just need to link the account to your CoinsPaid dashboard. Also, in the dashboard you can set up the access roles for different people in your company – for example, who can just view the transactions, and so on.
As you can probably tell, the integration process on chúng tôi is pretty convenient and straightforward– this is why we’ve chosen to analyse their integration procedure in our article today.What to Pay Attention to When Choosing a Cryptocurrency Payment System?
Firstly, a risk scoring system should be in place. In other words, one needs to be sure that a provider conducts ongoing transaction monitoring to stamp out any possibility of money laundering, terrorist financing or other criminal activity;
Secondly, the provider should support fiat conversions. Regardless of whether a company is looking for a ‘hands-on’ or ‘hands-off’ approach, instant fiat conversion is commonplace in the industry and one should have questions for Bitcoin payment gateways not interested in its provision. For example, CoinsPaid makes sure that their clients don’t need a background in crypto;
Next, make sure to check the setup fee. The fine print will often reveal hefty setup fees under the guise of ‘API integration fees’. The truth is, crypto payment processing is fairly easy to set up, which is why the largest player on the market, CryptoProcessing by CoinsPaid, doesn’t have any setup fees;
SWIFT and SEPA are the two most widely used forms of cross-border transfers. If a cryptocurrency payment processor doesn’t support either one of these, you should have questions relating to their scalability and ability to handle cross-border payments;
As an honourable mention – one should investigate the frills of a company’s offering. What can they offer your company to sweeten the pot? Often, channels, invoices, e-commerce plugins and a large number of payment options can be welcome bonuses.
It’ll come as no surprise that CoinsPaid offering checks each of these boxes. For that very reason, we’re convinced of its title as the best cryptocurrency payment gateway on the market.Summing up
As with most things in life, getting your head around crypto processing is easy, but understanding it on a technical level is much harder. Alas, we arrive at the aim of today’s article – to provide a crypto-curious audience with a comprehensive guide on crypto payment providers.
Even though it may be hard to admit for some, WhatsApp is the king when it comes to messaging. With more than 2 billion active users, it seems that WhatsApp has no real competitor. However, some users have opted for an alternative with more and better options and one that cares about their privacy. The alternative is Telegram.
With Facebook investing billions on WhatsApp, there is no doubt that WhatsApp’s success was assured. Nonetheless, if we compare WhatsApp to Telegram from a technical standpoint, the former comes up short.
Find out what you’ve missed by not giving the lesser-known messenger apps a chance they deserve.Telegram Has a Better Desktop App
While Telegram has not been around as long as WhatsApp, it’s still considered a great desktop app. Telegram supports Windows, Linux, and Mac. Moreover, if you don’t feel like installing any software, you can also use Telegram on your favorite web browser by logging in to your Telegram account.
Those who have used either WhatsApp web or the desktop app know all too well how tricky it is to make it work consistently. It constantly has to be open to keep it working. Otherwise, you have to sync it with your smartphone, again! That is not very convenient if you have six or seven more tabs open as well. Telegram’s web app works well, and it also offers you all the functions you would find in the Android and iOS apps.
Moreover, the WhatsApp desktop app often stops working altogether, requiring a full reinstall. For a corporation that has effectively infinite resources, this doesn’t inspire confidence. No matter how many times people post reports and solutions to this chronic problem, it doesn’t seem to be going away.Chats That Self-Destruct
If you are worried about the privacy of your conversations, Telegram offers end-to-end encryption. In other words, the messages never go through Telegram’s servers. The messages are encrypted and decrypted in the user’s device.
You can also start chats that self-destruct. You can program the chats to self-destruct after a certain amount of time, and once the time is up, that message is gone. Telegram can also let you know if the other person has taken a screenshot of your conversation so that you know who you can and can’t trust.
While WhatsApp has the equivalent in the form of Disappearing Messages, the user has to enable it to auto-delete messages after seven days.Greater Media Flexibility
In every instant messaging service, you can upload images, but Telegram has taken it one step further. Along with allowing users to take either a picture or choose one from the gallery, it also allows them to look for one directly from the Web, or create their own stickers.
You can search for images and GIFs that will reproduce once they are in the conversation. The same applies to videos, and you can see the exact size of each attached video before you decide to play it. Don’t you just love Telegram already?Telegram Has a Drastically Greater File Size Limit
Up until 2023, you couldn’t send a wide range of file types on WhatsApp, including Word and Excel files, PDFs, and various video formats. After catching up with Telegram, you can now share any file type on WhatsApp. However, Facebook is still stingy when it comes to the maximum file size that can be shared.
With Telegram, you don’t have to include third-party apps if you want to send large files. You can easily send and receive large files with ease. This is something that WhatsApp lacks.Usernames Instead of Phone Numbers
If you don’t want to share your phone number to talk to someone, no problem. You can choose a username, and through that, anyone can add you to their contacts. This is a great way that Telegram respects your privacy. WhatsApp users have no choice but to add to their contacts list the person they want to talk to, even if it is someone who is selling something on eBay.Telegram Is Completely FREE Telegram Supports Bigger Groups than WhatsApp
WhatsApp users can only enjoy groups of up to 256 users, but Telegram’s limit is up to 200,000. If you have more than 500 friends you want to keep in contact with, then you’re all set with Telegram.Eliminate Your Account from the Web
Losing or having your phone stolen can be a real pain – unless you have an app installed where you can wipe your phone clean. Whoever gains access to your phone will be able to see everything, and that includes your conversations.
Telegram allows its users to eliminate their accounts on the web app and erase everything. With this option, there is no doubt that Telegram gives its users peace of mind when it comes to their private information.
With WhatsApp, it may take up to 90 days to permanently delete your account. More importantly, in January, WhatsApp announced the change of its privacy policies for business accounts, which received a massive backlash, as WhatsApp is set to be more tightly integrated with Facebook. Needless to say, previous privacy scandals involving Facebook triggered an exodus of users to Telegram and other secure messenger apps.Wrapping Up
It is clear that the one who should be the king here is Telegram and not WhatsApp, but hopefully, as more people get to know Telegram, they will see a huge difference between the two messengers. Telegram offers a superior alternative while costing you nothing in return – for now.
Rahul Nambiampurath started his career as an accountant but has now transitioned into working full-time in the tech space. He is an ardent fan of decentralized and open source technologies. When he’s not writing, he’s usually busy making wine, tinkering with his android device, or hiking some mountains.
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A new business called Replica Wines claims to produce “master forgeries” of well-known wines, deploying a throng of chemical instruments and a huge flavor database to blend near-identical versions of the wines from different grapes.
Ava Winery, meanwhile, takes a different approach, bypassing grapes entirely, and going straight for the molecules — combining flavor chemicals with ethanol and water to reproduce the experience of wine, without replicating the process.
It should be noted that it’s a bit unfair to compare the two. Replica is part of an established company — the Colorado-based Integrated Beverages Group — with a line of commercial products and a team that includes a master sommelier and several distinguished winemakers. Ava is more of a lark, a thought experiment that might never have germinated outside of the hothouse conditions of San Francisco start-up culture. Its initial offering, a bottle of imitation 1992 Dom Perignon, is not yet for sale — and may never be. But these two very different companies showcase the ambitions, and limits, of chemical analysis when it comes to subjective qualities such as flavor.
According to Replica, its patent-pending proprietary method represents the “ultimate science and wine pairing,” one that “takes the guess-work” out of making good wine. Working with Ellipse Analytics, an independent analytical chemical laboratory, the company claims to have assembled the world’s largest database of alcoholic beverage flavor profiles — essentially, a database that pairs chemical markers with sensory effects.
To duplicate a wine, laboratory staff at Ellipse analyze and quantify its characteristic “macrocomponents,” such as acidity, sugars, and tannins; and “microcomponents,” volatile flavor chemicals such as linalool and methoxypyrazine. A panel of trained tasters also produces a subjective flavor profile, a record of perceived flavor notes and intensities. The goal is to align chemistry with sensory experience, using base wines from the company’s own vineyards, as well as additional wines sourced from other California and Oregon winemakers, to make a blend that mimics the original. It’s an iterative process, with analytic laboratory’s results serving to guide the hands-on work of winemakers.
Once Replica’s blend can effectively pass for the original in sensory tests, the laboratory then confirms the accuracy of the copy. “We ensure at least ninety percent chemical similarity to the wine by which each was inspired,” promises Jaclyn Bowen, president of Ellipse Analytics.
Ninety percent sounds good, but given the exquisite sensitivity of the human sensorium, even a tiny difference, molecularly speaking, can matter quite a bit when it comes to actual flavor. So how does it go down? A tasting last week in the Popular Science offices in Manhattan placed Replica’s Pickpocket side by side with The Prisoner, the popular and critically praised California red blend that “inspired” it. Although I’m not personally a huge fan of this style of red wine, the two were comparably big-boned, juicy, and smooth-drinking, and a similar deep purple color in the glass.
Ari Walker, the company’s president, noted that there are some differences; Replica’s alcohol content, for instance, is 14.9 percent, versus the Prisoner’s 15.2 percent. Nonetheless, it was difficult for this untrained (but enthusiastic) taster to precisely pinpoint the quality of the slight distinction. Certainly, if someone had poured me a glass of one after I had quaffed a glass of the other, I would not have suspected that anything was amiss. At a retail price of $25 a bottle — about forty percent less than The Prisoner — it seems like a pretty good deal.
Walker, Replica’s president, calls this approach to winemaking “disruptive.” But is it, really? There’s nothing inherently novel about pairing science and wine; just ask Louis Pasteur. Contrary to visions of agrarian simplicity, wine is a profoundly industrialized product, and a huge global business, exceeding $250 billion dollars in annual sales. Science and technology inflects every aspect of wine production. According to Dr. Andrew Waterhouse, professor at wine chemistry at the University of California, Davis, many wineries and winemakers already try to duplicate the flavor and style of top-selling or well-reviewed wines; it’s a commercial necessity in a crowded market. There is a whole industry of wine consulting laboratories, such as Enologix and ETS Labs, which help winemakers shape their vintages to suit consumer tastes and trends. What’s unique about Replica, Waterhouse says, is simply that it’s openly admitting to the copying.
Ultimately, the “master forgery” angle is a cool trick, but it’s also a bit of misdirection. Replica’s goal, ultimately, is not to make an indistinguishable “forgery” that could fool professional wine snobs, but to consistently make wine that lots of people like, based on the wines that people are currently buying and drinking and enjoying. The big mystery here is not what makes wine taste the way it does, but what makes you like it (or, more to the point, what makes you buy it).
Despite the company’s boasts about its proprietary methodology, it’s striking how traditional some aspects of Replica’s approach and philosophy are. For instance, Walker, the company’s president, is adamant that the company would never use its methods to try to duplicate a terroir-specific wine, one made from grapes grown only on a specific parcel of land. Those wines, he suggests, have a uniqueness of character that would be impossible to replicate without access to the grapes themselves. Both he and Brett Zimmerman, the master sommelier who serves as the company’s Chief Wine Officer, seem appalled when I ask if they would ever add flavor chemicals to their wines to enhance the quality of the resemblance.A Fruitless Attempt
Ava Winery is another thing altogether. In fact, it’s questionable whether it can legally call itself a winery at all, or label its product as wine. Founded last year by Mardonn Chua and Alec Lee, former college classmates with backgrounds in biotech and science education, Ava originated out of a wish to make the most exclusive wine experiences accessible to all. Seduced by an unattainable bottle of 1973 Chateau Montelena, the California Chardonnay wine that vanquished France in the famed “Judgment of Paris,” Chua and Lee wondered whether they could reproduce it chemically, molecule by molecule, without ever touching a grape. With synthetic chemistry, they could turn “water to wine in fifteen minutes.”
This is not entirely unprecedented. In the nineteenth century, synthetic chemicals were used to add distinctive flavor and specious value to neutral spirits; an 1858 editorial in Scientific American railed against chemists who peddled “flavorings to produce, at a moment’s notice, any desired liquor,” from Catawba wine to old whiskey. More recently (and more respectably), Thomas Hofmann, a flavor chemist at the Technical University of Munich, has produced mixtures of synthetic chemicals that faithfully reproduce the aroma of certain wines, using techniques that combine sensory and chemical analysis — a methodology similar to that used by Replica.
Suffice it to say, neither Chua nor Lee have any experience with winemaking, nor with flavor chemistry — although the co-founders are working with a sommelier, who has asked to remain anonymous. (“He has encountered a decent amount of disinterest in this from his colleagues,” Lee told me.)
Ava experiments with glycerin Mardonn Chua
For Ava’s “first edition,” a synthetic version of 1992 Dom Perignon, the company has sent samples of the vintage to commercial analytic laboratories, which use various forms of gas chromatography and mass spectrometry to isolate and identify its components. The challenge is interpreting those often inconsistent results: figuring out which compounds contribute to flavor, obtaining those compounds from chemical suppliers, and then recombining them in the proper quantities, a steep challenge given that some flavor compounds are used at concentrations of parts per billion or less.
So how does it taste? Reports of early versions have been less than alluring. Lisa Grossman at New Scientist detected evocative notes of plastic pool shark and raw gasoline in her recent tasting of an experimental “moscato.”
In addition to refining the formula, Ava must also clear considerable licensing and regulatory hurdles before the company can sell any alcohol. Curious quaffers can sign up for one of the 499 bottles of faux 1992 Dom ($50), but they won’t be charged for it until all of these issues are resolved.
Lee admits that this is, technically, an extremely difficult project, but insists that it’s not nearly as challenging as other ongoing attempts to produce synthetic food, such as lab-grown meat.
Lee sees Ava as part of a vanguard of technologically driven start-ups working toward a radical transformation in food production, a peer of companies such as Soylent and Impossible Foods, who have no reverence for the agrarian lore of “working the land,” and instead embrace engineering ideals such as efficiency and transparency. Indeed, Lee argues that Ava is much more transparent than the “vast majority of the wine industry,” where additives are used, but kept out of the limelight. Chua, his co-founder, published his complete formula from an earlier attempt to “hack wine” — a Kendall-Jackson chardonnay — to Reddit earlier this year. “Our customers definitely know what we’re making,” Lee says.
In this light, the company’s ambitious choice to attempt to replicate wine — a substance with profound importance throughout human history and culture — is crucial to understanding their project. “Something romantic just exists about wine itself,” Lee explains. If the company succeeds in chemically replicating such a “significant part of the cultural food chain, that’s when we really start to change people’s minds.”
Lee envisions a future where all food will be synthetic, and where our appetites will be gratified on demand by automatic replicators. “You tell your replicator what you want and then you eat it. You enjoy it. There’s nothing scary about that.” He concedes, “I might be wrong about the timescale. It might not happen in my lifetime,” yet assures me, “it’s an inevitability.” In that regard, Ava “wines” can be seen as a means of defusing the cultural and commercial landmines that persist around the word “synthetic.”
So, if you’re looking for a well-made and reliably crowd-pleasing wine at a modest price, don’t hesitate to pick up a bottle of Replica, and be sure to lift a glass to toast the science of winemaking.
But if you want to take a chance, and fully embrace the synthetic lifestyle, then sign up for an edition of Ava. It probably won’t taste like a million bucks, but it just might taste like the future.
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