Technology is changing the wine industry, from the vine to the glass.
Wine dates at least all the way back to the Stone Age, with the oldest known winery (from c. 4100 B.C.) discovered along the Arpa River in an Armenian village. More than six millennia later, the beloved intoxicant is still enjoyed around the world. Every day, grapes are harvested, crushed, and fermented, and wine is clarified, aged, and bottled to meet the demand. The global wine industry is in good hands and new technology is making it a time like no other for wine enthusiasts.
Developments in the way grapes are grown and harvested, the way wine is made and marketed, and even the way wine is enjoyed are transforming the wine industry. A quick look at the technology vineyards and wineries are using showcases these developments.
Growing and Harvesting
Tech is bringing about major changes in agriculture, so it should come as no surprise that the process of growing and harvesting grapes for wine is also seeing changes. From better ways of predicting crop yield to cutting down on repetitive tasks, the process of acquiring grapes for wine is becoming more efficient.
Lincoln Agritech in New Zealand works with vineyards to use sensing technology to count grapes, then enters that data into an algorithm that predicts the harvest. Every year the data is entered, the predictions become more accurate. Similarly, Geospatial Artificial Intelligence for Agriculture (GAIA) has developed software that will map every vineyard in Australia helping vineyards more accurately predict the results of their harvest.
Hawk Aerial, a drone company out of Napa, California specializes in the wine industry. The tech company uses its multispectral cameras to gather images which are then stitched together using AI, this then provides vineyards with a report on vine vigor, which can affect the overall quality of the wine that is made. This information allows the winemakers to know in which areas the vines are weak, and which areas are having problems with fertilization, pests, or irrigation.
Also in Napa, Palmaz Vineyards employs a high tech dome on its property that runs its Ferment Intelligent Logic Control System (FILCS, pronounced Felix) which projects statistics, graphs, and charts onto the dome. Winemakers can tell FILCS what the plan is for each batch and it collects data on the fermentation process. The system then creates graphs showing how the wine is trending, allowing the necessary adjustments to be made.
As it has with every other industry, digital marketing has entered the world of wine, leading wineries to seek out innovative ways to reach and appeal to their customers. This has been done to great effect by hiring marketing companies that cater specifically to wineries as well as wineries working on their own and taking advantage of new technology.
Australia’s 19 Crimes wine brand appeals to the new clientele of digital natives by incorporating tech—and a novel marketing strategy—directly onto its bottles. Each wine is named after an Australian criminal and, using the company’s Augmented Reality app, customers can scan the bottle. Looking through the app, the criminal’s face on the bottle comes to life and tells the customer of his or her criminal past.
Meanwhile, Vinbound, a digital marketing company that focuses on vineyards is changing the way people discover wineries in Oregon. The company uses virtual reality, 3D modeling, and 360 degree photography to create its True Tour videos which can be embedded on a winery’s website and offer incredible views and virtual tours of the property. Customers who are impressed by the tours can share the videos with friends via text messages while planning a visit.
Vinbound also has a side business, WineryHunt, which offers a membership program that provides incentives to local wine tasters, encouraging them to visit new wineries and offering discounts at featured wineries. The company partners with 50 wineries a year, featuring a different one every week in an effort to get subscribers out and about, exploring all of the state’s wines.
Reaching New Markets
Of course, many wineries are simply too far away to visit, and some people appreciate the convenience of ordering wines from home. This is where a new generation of wine clubs find their niche.
One such club is Winc, which aims to make a wide variety of wines affordable and accessible to consumers no matter where they are. Members receive four bottles of wine each month. Bottles are either chosen by the recipients or by Winc, based on a taste profile created by the member. The wines are made with grapes from all over the world and Winc also pairs with independent wineries to give subscribers access to wines they might not otherwise be able to taste.
Naked Wines, which originally started in the UK but has since expanded to the United States and Australia, is another notable wine club. This club also supports independent wineries by taking the fees from club members—known as “Angels”—and investing it in small wineries around the world. This allows the Angels to feel like they are contributing to the wineries whose wine they have the option to purchase for 40 to 60 percent off of the standard price.
The Information Age
These days data is everywhere and it is easy to find information on almost anything. This is growing increasingly true in the wine industry, where knowing the facts about certain wines can do more than help you get exactly what you want, it can help you avoid an incredibly costly mistake.
Vivino is a mobile app that is sure to appeal to digital natives in search of the right wine. Working as a Shazam for wine, it allows users to simply take pictures of wine labels and receive a plethora of information about the product, helping them make a decision. Similarly, apps like Drzly, Drync, and Instacart have made it easy to simply relax at home, scroll through pictures and descriptions of wine, choose the ones you want, and wait for it to be delivered.
Soon, the Internet of Things and blockchain technology will make it easier to track the products we buy, including wine. This could be especially helpful in the high-end wine industry, where consumers and producers are worried about fake wines or bottles that have been opened.
Thinfilm, a Norwegian-based company, helps people find the history of products by tapping them with their smartphone. Classic Spanish winery, Barbadillo, recently employed Thinfilm’s technology on bottles of its Amontillado Sherry which was limited to a run of 100 bottles that sold for around $10,000 apiece. Those who bought the wine were able to use their smartphone to make sure that the bottle had never been opened and recorked.
Enjoy a Glass
Plum, the creation of tech entrepreneur David Koretz, hopes to make it as easy to have a good glass of wine as it is to get a hot cup of coffee. The high tech appliance holds up to two bottles of wine, keeping them chilled, and pouring out a glass at the perfect temperature.
Not only that, Plum is able to keep a bottle of wine fresh for up to 90 days. This is done by avoiding oxidation. Typically, when you remove the cork from a bottle of wine, it begins to oxidize, slowly altering the taste. Plum uses a motorized needle to pierce the cork of the bottle, then sucks the wine out without introducing oxygen. The result: perfectly chilled wine served on tap for weeks.
As new technology continues to develop and be introduced to the winemaking—and consuming— process, the beverage that’s produced only stands to get better, making this an exciting time to be a wine lover, or become one.