Wine lovers looking to be the first to know about the industry’s emerging trends will usually look for insights around things like up-and-coming regions or the best natural wines. What many connoisseurs don’t immediately think of is technology.
While tech has essentially crept into every facet of our lives, some think because winemakers and distributors hold so tightly to their traditions that the wine business is immune to this influence. That’s not the case though, over the years there have been a number of technological developments that have made wine more enjoyable for the consumer.
In fact, wine tech had its biggest moment in 2020 because of the pandemic.
As many vineyards remain closed to the public and shoppers avoid lengthy conversations with in-store wine reps, new tech trends are rapidly popping up to ensure customers are able to appreciate their wine safely, and with a couple of new, fun twists.
At Home Innovations Create At Home Sommeliers.
With the limitations surrounding eating out, a big question for wine drinkers becomes “How can I feel like I am getting professional attention from a sommelier while at home?” Without the seemingly magical taste buds of a good somm, the best way to do that is with a couple of cool gadgets.
In recent years, smart cellar apps like CellarTracker have found success. Smart cellar apps eliminate the hassle of tracking your inventory and preferences. CellarTracker specifically allows you to keep notes on the wines you have tried, while also allowing access to communal reviews. Additionally, it can give recommendations of what to drink based on how many bottles you have in your cellar and the bottles’ optimal consumption age. This is simply achieved by scanning wine’s barcodes before putting it away in your at-home cellar.
While CellarTracker’s experience has proven that there is a market for at-home wine tech, products are beginning to skew more towards hard tech in the form of devices that can integrate with apps, rather than pure applications. A prime example of this, and a sure favorite for passionate wine consumers, are instant decanters. Companies like Aveine and iFAVINE have developed products that eliminate the need to decant a bottle hours before actually drinking it. Aveine’s product, as an example, is an attachment that goes atop a bottle and creates what they claim to be “perfect aeration” for every pour, eradicating wait times for the wine to release all its aromas.
Other products are making waves as well, including Myoeno. Myoeno is a smart scanner that a wine lover can dip into their glass and then have the device send tasting notes on the wine to a smartphone. The drinker can then record their own feelings towards that wine, thus creating a database that can recommend new bottles in the future. The scanner currently has the bandwidth to identify nearly 3 million different bottles of wine, so while it is newer tech, it is hardly in its beta phase.
Another useful category of at-home equipment is single-pour systems. Single-pour devices, like the Coravin Systems, have the ability to inject a thin needle through a cork to extract enough wine for a single glass. This means that you can enjoy a glass of vino without uncorking a bottle, keeping the gases needed for preservation trapped in the bottle, and the rest of the wine fresh.
Touchless Transactions Are Streamlining Wine Purchases.
2020 has brought a push towards touchless tech for making all kinds of purchases. This instance of wine tech is a good talking point to impress friends as it is still being trialed and really has yet to catch on or gain any traction in the United States.
Motao Box is China’s answer to touchless wine purchasing. The boxes, some of which look like a London phone booth packed with vino, are at their core a boozy vending machine — but that’s just the oversimplified description. Really what the Motao Box allows for is a walk-up, instant transaction. All the customer needs to do is scan the box’s QR code, follow the prompts, and pay through a secure app. At this point, the machine will unlock and open, allowing the consumer to grab the bottle they paid for.
It is interesting to imagine the possibilities for this tech. Could wineries adopt touchless machines like the Motao Box? Strategically placing them in front of their tasting rooms could make for an express, touchless version of a wine tour. If wineries and tasting rooms continue to face pandemic-induced disruption in 2021, it would not be difficult to imagine this type of innovation getting fast-tracked to help with on-site sales.
VR/AR Provides a Glimpse at New Opportunities.
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are bringing wine consumers closer to wine producers than ever before. Many producers are building experiences straight into their labels, and an app like Winerytale allows you, the consumer, to unlock them. Simply by pointing a smartphone at a label, folks looking not just to buy, but learn about their bottles, will be presented with a story directly from the bottle’s winemaker. The tech allows for shoppers to receive information on the vineyard, the winemaker themselves, and the specific grape. The same type of valuable knowledge someone might get from a tasting at a winery.
This isn’t a thing of the future either. Besides apps like Winerytale, usage of VR with wine labels has been popping up culturally as well. In 2019, Jack Ma, the well-known billionaire owner of the Alibaba Group, gave his employees a bottle of wine as a gift for the company’s 20th anniversary. The surprise was that the label featured a hologram of Ma sending a message to his staff.
New Ways to Drink Wine.
Lastly, here’s probably the most shocking trend of all: grapeless wine. While many might reel back in horror at the thought, this is an upcoming trend that will be difficult to ignore, as a number of molecular wines that have hit the market claim to pack the same flavor of traditional wines.
Gemello by Endless West, following the company’s success in molecular whiskey, is the market’s trailblazer. The producer’s confidence is in the wine’s name: “Gemello” is Italian for twin, a nod to their feeling that their wine is indistinguishable to a traditionally-produced bottle.
Some wine enthusiasts may be asking, “Well what’s the point, outside of some kind of sci-fi-esque appeal?” Well, outside the taboo of trying a wine made without grapes, the process is also significantly more sustainable. Endless West notes that Gemello contains zero sulfates or pesticides and also uses “95% less water, 80% less land, and 40% fewer carbon emissions than conventional winemaking.”
But it all comes down to taste, so before you exclaim the future of wine has arrived, a tester may be in order.
While there’s no doubt that elements of the wine industry remain frozen in time, there’s ample room — and demand — for innovations at the intersection of tech and wine, especially on the consumer side as wine lovers everywhere try their hand at becoming an at-home connoisseur. In a world that’s fast moving towards widespread digital transformation, wine enthusiasts will need to embrace tech developments in their beloved world of wine if they are to keep up.
Émilie Steckenborn has lived in Shanghai, China for over eight years. Her passion for wine, food, beer and cocktails led her to create the Bottled in China podcast. A foodie herself, Émilie has cultivated her palate through gaining qualifications including a Diploma and Certified Educator from WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust), Certified Sommelier from CMS (Court of Master Sommeliers) and the HEG (Hautes Études du Goût) Certificate from Cordon Bleu.