Replica wine is turning the wine industry on its head with its groundbreaking value proposition. The company, which uses proprietary patent-pending technology, identifies key flavors and characteristics of well known, often-consumed “American” wines and, in turn, created near-identical knockoffs, hence the name of their brand “Replica.”
Ari Walker, President of Integrated Beverage Group, is at the helm of this unique effort. Walker has been a business leader for more than 20 years. He also brings extended experience in all aspects of the alcoholic beverage industry to Integrated Beverage Group, including production, compliance, quality management, sales leadership and marketing.
Swig contributor Kristen Oliveri sat down with the former owner of Baroness Wines, which grew to be the largest independent alcohol beverage distributor in the state of Colorado, to talk about what’s cooking at Replica.
Q: What is Replica wine?
A: Replica® is a line of wines that unlocks the essence of consumers’ favorite wines, for between 25 to 50 percent less. Replica wines are each benchmarked to a popular national wine with a proven track record of consumer loyalty. Integrated Beverage Group (IBG), the parent company of Replica, has harnessed the power of science, the skills of a great winemaker and palate of a master sommelier to reverse engineer today’s most popular wines and create the brand.
Q: What was the impetus for launching it?
A: We wanted to make better wine. Beginning several years ago, we have invested more than $5 million in surveying the category from an analytical chemical perspective in order to understand the taste and aroma components of various wines. Consumers are spending too much for their favorite wines. To solve that problem, we have deployed our research to create a roadmap to make wines that feature the tastes and aromas that we know consumers already love, for less. Although we are guided and informed by science, we only use classic winemaking techniques and blending to achieve our remarkable results.
Q: How do you work with Ellipse Analytics to achieve your goals?
A: Ellipse Analytics (EA) provides the “roadmap” by which our wines are blended. Then EA provides the quantitative feedback around our blend to ensure at least a 90 percent chemical similarity between Replica’s wines and those that are benchmarked.
Q: How do you choose which wines to replicate for production?
A: We select wines that are leaders in their categories and which we think can be replicated successfully for a lower cost to consumers. There is an idea in the world of wine called “terroir,” which hypothesizes that at some level certain wines are as much a reflection of the place where they were grown as the way they were produced. It is not part of our business plan or philosophy to test this hypothesis.
Rather, we seek to replicate the most iconic wines that are largely products of the bulk market, or from such a diversity of vineyard sources that “terroir” could not reasonably be said to play an important role in the style of the wine. Wines like The Prisoner and Meiomi represent this type of winemaking.
Q: What is the scientific process like for you and your team?
A: Ellipse Analytics, the independent analytical chemistry laboratory with which Replica® partners are equipped with state-of-the-art instrumentation, including gas chromatography, gas chromatography with mass spectrometry, liquid chromatography, liquid chromatography with mass spectrometry, inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry, plate readers and more.
These instruments can effectively isolate hundreds of specific chemicals in wine associated with specific flavors and aroma profiles (i.e. grassy, oaky, tannic, etc.). EA tests for the presence of these chemicals in the range parts per million or even parts per billion. EA provides a chemical “roadmap” of each wine to Replica’s® winemaking team which includes Brett Zimmerman, a Master Sommelier.
The winemaking team uses classic wine blending techniques and grapes sourced from vineyards throughout California, Oregon and Italy to create our Replica wines. Ellipse then assures, through testing at various stages of the blending process, at least 90 percent of the chemical similarity in flavor profiles before the wine is passed to Replica’s® Chief Wine Officer, a Master Sommelier.
As one of only 233 individuals in the world to earn the wine industry’s highest certification, Zimmerman’s highly trained palette is the final test in quality assurance. If he does not think the wine tastes amazing and nearly identical to the wine that inspired it, it is not bottled.
Q: Where can your wines be found?
A: Our wines can be found at liquor retailers in nearly 40 states. If you can’t find Replica at your favorite wine or liquor store, ask for it.
Q: Is there anyone in the winemaking community doing something similar?
A: Not of which we are aware. There is another company, called Ava Winery that is engineering “wines” with no grapes or fermentation. That is very different from what Replica offers. At Replica, we use science to help us identify the roadmap of America’s favorite wines. We then use the artistry of classic wine blending techniques, as well as the quality control of world class winemakers and a master sommelier to perfect them. As far as we are aware nothing like Replica has ever been attempted in the wine industry.
Q: What’s next for Replica?
A: Scapegoat Italian Pinot Grigio, benchmarked to Santa Margherita® Pinot Grigio (but retailing at more than 20 percent less) will be available at the end of the month. We’re constantly testing new wines to see whether or not they are good candidates for replication, and we’re always looking for consumer suggestions as to which wines they love but would like to purchase for less.