From the vine to your glass, technology is bringing about change in the wine industry
Dating at least all the way back to an ancient cave along the Arpa River in Armenia where the world’s oldest known winery (c. 4100 B.C.) was discovered, wine has long been one of the most beloved beverages on the planet. Over 6,000 years later, wine is still produced daily through the harvesting, crushing, and fermenting of grapes and ultimately the clarification, aging, and bottling of the wine itself. Of course, over the millennia things have changed, and technology is now affecting the wine industry in many positive ways.
From the manner in which grapes are grown to the way wines are marketed, and even to the way we enjoy wine once we get our hands on it, technology is transforming the wine industry. A quick look at the ways in which wineries and vineyards are employing this technology shows exactly why now is a great time to be a wine enthusiast.
On the Vine
Technology is bringing about major changes across the agriculture industry, so it should come as no surprise that it is leading to big change in the way grapes are grown and harvested. The process of acquiring grapes for wine is becoming more efficient, from better ways of predicting crop yield to cutting down on repetitive tasks.
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.
Wine Australia, which exists to support the success and growth of the Australian wine sector, recently partnered with Consilium Technology to use GAIA software to map the 65 grape-growing regions of Australia. The data will be used to perform a census of Australian grapes, row-by-row. Vineyards can log in and have access to all of the information, noting the length of their rows and the vitality of their crops.
A similar effort has been in place in Napa, California, using drones. Hawk Aerial, a drone company, specializes in the wine industry. The tech company uses its multispectral cameras to gather images which are then stitched together using AI and provide vineyards with a report on vine vigour, 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.
Just like every other industry, digital marketing has found its way into the world of wine, causing wineries to seek out new and exciting ways to reach and appeal to potential 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.
The Barossa Valley’s 19 Crimes 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 infamous Australian criminal and, using the company’s Augmented Reality app, customers can scan the bottle. Through the app, the criminal’s face on the bottle comes to life and regales the customer with stories of his or her criminal past.
Since debuting the app last year, 19 Crimes has been an unbridled success. The Living Wine Labels app, used for the AR, has been downloaded over 2 million times worldwide and 19 Crimes’ parent company, Treasury Wine Estate, has committed to bringing the tech to some of its other brands.
Reaching New Markets
Of course, many wineries are simply too far away for many to visit and there are a lot of people who prefer the convenience of ordering wines from the comfort of their home. This is where a new generation of wine clubs find their niche.
Naked Wines, which started in the UK but has since expanded to Australia and the United States, is one such wine club. This club is notable in that it supports independent wineries by using the fees from club members — referred to as “Angels” — and investing the money in small wineries across the globe. 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 per cent off the regular price.
Another exciting wine club is the start up The Wine Gallery. Banjo Harris Plane, owner of Melbourne’s Bar Liberty as well as the former sommelier at Attica, secured funding for The Wine Gallery this September, hoping to connect subscribers with unique wines they might not be able to find otherwise. Members begin by taking a palate quiz to establish an idea of which wines the club can pair with the member’s personal tastes. After that, they are sent three bottles a month to enjoy.
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. Cellartracker is another useful app that helps you keep track of the wine you have in your cellar and offers friendly reminders as to when is the best time to open the bottles.
Soon, blockchain technology and the Internet of Things will make it simple to track everything we buy, including wine. Such technology will be especially useful in the high-end wine industry, where both producers and consumers are worried about intentionally mislabelled wines or bottles that have previously been opened.
Thinfilm is a Norwegian company that helps customers discover the history of products by tapping them with their smartphone. Legendary Spanish winery, Barbadillo, recently used Thinfilm’s technology on bottles of its Amontillado Sherry, a scarce wine that was limited to a run of 100 bottles selling for an average of $10,000 apiece. Connoisseurs who bought the wine could use apps on their smartphones to be certain that the bottle had never been opened and recorked.
Visit a Winery or Two
Australians looking to plan the perfect day of wine tasting now have the perfect companion, Twenty Five Doors. For as little as $59 per year, subscribers get access to VIP experiences and personalised tastings at many of the best wineries in the country.
Not only do you get great deals sent to you every month, but you can also use the platform to answer a few questions and have the perfect day of wine tasting suggested for you. All you have to do next is decide on the itinerary, book your visit through the app, and get ready for a VIP experience at the wineries you choose to visit.
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.