Humans have been drinking wine since ancient times. Although wine can ferment naturally, we have been improving on nature to get the tastiest wine and the best growing grapes as long as there’s been agriculture. Here are three ways that 21st century technologies are changing an age-old industry.
Man versus Machine
Grapes are delicate. Human hands and eyes have always been the best tools for grape harvesting and sorting. But the new generation of harvesting machines is sensitive and fast enough to reliably do the work of a small army of highly skilled people. While these machines aren’t cheap, grape growers have reasons for using them. There are not enough human fruit pickers to go around. Other crops vie for their skills. And they are typically migrant laborers who are subject to immigration laws. Modern consumers are tuned in to social issues, which influence what products they buy, including wine.
Old World Meets New Data
Grape growers have always kept careful records. But new technologies like satellite data and sensors add a whole new level to how much growers can learn about their plants and environment. They can gather minute data about conditions of the fruits, plants and soil, for example, tracking the internal water levels of the plants.
Sequencing and chemical analysis can help identify the many compounds that make grapes ripe and delicious, and which ones grow best in specific climates, elevations or different soil acidities. DNA technology can help develop grapes that are just right for local conditions. Growers will need to keep track of this. Because of climate change, grape growing regions are shifting, to say the least.
There is debate as to whether micromanaging with technology can produce better wine, but the verdict is still out. Either way, growers will need to harness data to keep making great wine as growing conditions change.
Connecting With Consumers Online
When buying wine, people care the most about the type of grape, location of the vineyard, environmental and ecological issues, value and recommendations from peers . People are more likely to buy something they know about and feel connected with.
Online, wineries can help consumers get the information they’re looking for. Social media engagement lets wineries become friends with consumers, and allows consumers to connect with each other share recommendations. Vineyard websites are creating relationships with wine drinkers, with information about flavor profiles and pairings, and growers’ blogs, video tours and recipes. Likewise, wineries can use social media to get feedback and learn what people want from them, like tastes for drier or sweeter wines, or opinions about packaging.
Apps and websites let consumers buy directly from wineries, whether they’re in a restaurant, a wine tasting, or a local store. Consumers, especially millennials, shop online more and more every year. Modern concerned and informed shoppers want to buy directly from small or local producers. It’s easy online.
The More Things Change
Humans have been making and drinking excellent wine for all of recorded history. Modern technology really brings us back to where it all started: people want to make great wine and share it with their friends and neighbors. Sometimes things need to change to stay the same.