Bringing wine into the technology age
Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.
- Ben Franklin
Ah, wine. A libation considered so essential to life—and life’s pleasures—that the Greeks and Romans dedicated an entire god to its worship. It doesn’t get much more old school than wine.
Although the wine industry may be steeped in tradition, in today’s economy no industry can afford to ignore the changes that technology is bringing. And according to a report on the state of the wine industry by the Silicon Valley Bank, the industry is now ready to grow its use of technology beyond the e-commerce distribution centers established by companies such as Wine.com in the early 2000s.
Meanwhile, California experienced its second record grape harvest in a row this year. And in 2013, California wine shipments within the U.S, were up 3 percent from the previous year at 215 million cases, with an estimated value of $23.1 billion, according to the Wine Institute. California wine sales to all markets, both domestic and international, increased 3% by volume to 258 million cases in 2013.
With the sector beginning to recover from the economic downturn, recent sales increases and and a new generation of consumers that will expect their Pinot to be paired with a digital component are beginning to discover wines, the industry is ripe for the improvements and innovation that technology can bring. From technological advances in viticulture to e-commerce and mobile solutions, a variety of innovative solutions are helping to bring this age-old libation into the technology age.
All the world’s an app these days, so when it comes to wine, of course there’s an app (or many apps as the case may be) for that. Wine apps are about as diverse as wine varietals themselves.
Among the more traditional apps are those that aim to educate wine consumers or provide recommendations from industry experts. The Wine Coach, for instance, claims to “demystify wine, one glass at a time,” by providing wine recommendations, food pairing advice and videos from award-winning sommelier Laurie Forster (aka “The Wine Coach”). Also geared toward wine pairings, Hello Vino bills itself as a wine app “for the rest of us,” or those who may find themselves confounded when faced with hundreds of bottles of wine at the wine store. The company provides pairing advice for “any occasion” including everything from gift ideas to suggestions for what to drink with traditional pairings such as cheese, chocolate or meat to pizza and pasta.
Appealing to the photo happy crowd, a number of wine apps employ pictures of wine labels to help consumers source wines online. Drync, for example, lets users upload a label photo to its website via their app then track their favorite bottles with ratings and notes. By employing a huge database of wines, users can then source their favorites for delivery. Another photo-based app, Delectable, uses photos to help wine lovers build their own personal wine journals. Users can also “follow” friends or sommeliers through the app and share recommendations and opinions with one another. With an active number of wine professionals who often use the app to chronicle their wine choices at home, the engine effectively serves as personal sommelier, providing free wine advice in addition to an extensive label and review library.
Both Vivino and Snooth also offer label identification, but take things one step further by including pricing information and nearby locations where your favorite wines can be purchased. The Snooth website also provides a full community experience for wine lovers, from buying through the site to a wine glossary and industry news. The app also comes in a professional version, and the company offers an API for developers who want to power their own wine apps based on the Snooth API. Also geared toward professionals is Wine Quest, which provides both a wine menu manager for restaurants and an personal app that helps users predict whether they will or won’t like a wine.
Of note is just how much apps like these are not just being used by curious consumers but by wine professionals themselves. As sommeliers use technology to make their wine decisions, their expectations for enhancements such as customization, personalization and even data analytics are likely to increase. Overall, this bodes well for wine producers, restaurateurs, wine professionals, wine enthusiasts, and the entire wine ecosystem because innovative technologies and applications are unlocking wine data and making it more accessible for people to have better access to discover and enjoy the wines they love.
Recommendation engines are nothing new in the world of technology. For years, Amazon has been making suggestions to us based on the books we buy, and Pandora has been tailoring music selections to individual tastes. Wine recommendation engines combine data and algorithms to match characteristics of individual wines to individual palates.
Often combined with a wine club business model, wine recommendation engine companies are taking a couple different approaches to data gathering. Companies such as Bright Cellars, Club W and Wine Simple use short online quizzes to gather information about user flavor and lifestyle preferences to help recommend bottles via data algorithms.
In contrast, companies such as Taste Factor and Wine Savage both use tasting panels—comprised of wine experts—to determine the flavor profile of a wine. Members provide information on their flavor preferences and are sent bottles to sample and review. Those reviews and reactions are fed into a database and matched with wine profiles to help refine what goes into their next shipment.
Start-ups are also utilizing sensor technology to bring the wine industry to the bleeding edge. Fruition Sciences, for instance, places sensors into vineyards to monitor moisture levels of the grapes and vines. By monitoring sap flow and weather conditions, then analyzing that data, vintners are able to make decisions about when and where to irrigate.
Pristine Solutions, which is part of the University of California at Berkeley’s Skydeck incubator program, plans to use temperature sensors to help consumers determine whether their wine is spoiled and provide guidance on ideal storage temperatures. An accompanying app geared toward wine makers measures consumer engagement and quick response (QR) bar codes. By scanning the QR codes and combining them in the cloud with duplication and counterfeiting algorithms, wine makers can prevent counterfeiting and protect their brand by adding information to each bottle.
The side effect of more technology coming into the wine industry is that a product that has often been viewed as inaccessible to the masses is now more accessible than ever. By democratizing the process from farm to palate, new apps and solutions promise to bring new audiences, efficiencies—and ultimately, sales—to the wine industry for years to come.
Find out more at our Wine Innovation panel at Bon Appétech, April 10-12, 2015. Drync will be among the participating companies presenting about new innovations, apps and trends in wine.
If you’re a wine tech startup, we’d love to hear from you. Bon Appétech Conference will be a great way to connect with industry stakeholders, large brands and influential decision makers. We are hosting a startup expo where entrepreneurs can showcase and launch new products, including new wine tech innovations. More information available at www.bonappetech.com