Wine innovators are continuing to change the industry

For many wine collectors and aficionados, the wine industry is steeped in tradition. From traditional wine producing processes to ancient vineyards producing grapes that have been used for centuries, it’s an industry with historical connotations. However, in 2019, the wine industry is also home to innovations and new ways of producing wine.

Innovation tends to occur when there is a new problem to solve. But it also happens when people with a new perspective join an established industry. Innovative solutions often build on top of existing tech and adapt them into a new industry. And however simple the end result appears to be to the outsider, the background levels of vision, determination and innovation are fascinating. Every year, the Wine Industry Network (WIN) awards businesses and entrepreneurs for excellence in the wine industry.


Wine innovators recognised in annual awards

Here are three winners from the eighth annual WINnovation Awards. They show the breadth and scope of innovation in this most traditional of industries.

Fighting climate change is ConeTech. There are new challenges facing the wine industry in regions that are suffering from adverse consequences of climate change. For example, in California the now annual wildfires destroy and taint grapes. Smoke exposure from the fires can cost winemakers entire crops, leading to huge financial loss. ConeTech developed a process that removes smoke taint without destroying the wine itself.

The process encompasses two steps. The first is vacuum distillation, which separates the essence and smoke compounds in the wine. The second step is testing the wine for more than 30 markers to work out how much the wine is tainted. This allows for properly targeted removal of the taint, restoring the value to the wine. Since ConeTech launched this proprietary process, they have restored almost one million gallons of wine that was smoke tainted.


New product restores nutrients to the soil

Another company working on climate change is Enartis USA, which linked up with BluAgri. The latter company is based in Europe, and developed a product called BluVite, which is a biofertilizer that restores the soil’s microbiological fertility. This was developed in response to extreme heat events caused by climate change. The fertiliser helps soil retain nutrients, which leads to healthier vines and better-quality grapes.

Enartis USA trialled the product in 2018 across a number of California wine growers. This has led to significantly higher levels of resistance of vines when exposed to environmental extremes. BluVite is an example of the kinds of innovative products that will safeguard the industry against the worsening effects of climate change.


Automating and improving the fermentation process

Another award winner is GOfermentor, which is a great example of a newcomer to the wine industry bringing a new perspective on how things are done. Biotech engineer Vijay Singh completely changed the way pharmaceutical fermentations are processed. He did this by introducing a sterile bag that is used just once to replace stainless steel.

This concept and process has now been introduced by Singh to the wine industry. Grapes are crushed into a GOfermentor single use bag that holds one tonne. It’s then programmed to automatically process the fermentation. The automated process reduces the need for manual labour and improves the fermentation process. This results in reduced sulphides. In addition, the single use bag protects the wine from being exposed to outside pollutants, such as oxygen, bacteria and smoke.

When the fermentation process is finished, the GOfermentor presses the grapes, which leaves the pomace in the biodegradable single use bag. This means easy, environmentally sound disposal, which reduces water usage by 90% too. This kind of innovation is absolutely the future of the industry, with low cost usage and investment and many advantages.


After a bumper 2018, global wine production falls in 2019

For serious fine wine collectors, or those interested in the worldwide industry, the state of the world’s wine production is important information. Early figures from the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) show that global wine production dropped by 10% this year.


In 2018, the world’s production hit a record high of 294 million hectolitres (mhl). For 2019, the production has dipped and is now back at an average of 263 mhl. This is primarily due to three key European wine producers: Spain, Italy and France.


Biggest fall in global wine production in the EU

Italy and France are the two biggest wine producers in the European Union (EU). This year sees both countries record a 15% drop in production. Spain, which is the third biggest wine producing country, dropped production by 24%.


In 2019, all three of these countries have the lowest output for five years. The OIV says that Spain, Italy and France account for 80% of the entire output for the EU. They attribute this drop to weather conditions, specifically pointing to the “very cold and rainy spring followed by an extremely hot and dry summer.”


The EU itself accounts for 60% of the world’s production of wine. And the trading bloc’s collective output for the 2019 season has decreased by 26.7mhl to 156mhl. Portugal is the sole country showing an increase in wine production compared with 2018’s figures. Meanwhile, Austria, Romania, Hungary and Germany all show levels roughly in line with their average over five years.


Wine production outside of the EU

Away from the EU, wine production is up in countries like Georgia and Russia, according to the OIV. Figures for the US are not quite as clear. The United States produces about 12% of the entire wine industry in the northern hemisphere. Early estimates show a potential decrease in production of 1% on 2018, but this is likely to change over the next few months.


Across the southern hemisphere, the industry has also seen a slight decline in production. However, wine production in this part of the world is roughly “in line with the five-year average”. The two biggest producers of wine in South America are Chile and Argentina and they show declines of 7% and 10% respectively.


South Africa has boosted wine production by 3% to 9.7mhl. This increase is despite a long drought that affected wine harvests. However, it should be kept in mind that this figure is compared with an extremely poor output in 2018.


Australia registered a slight fall in production, which is estimated so far at a loss of 3% compared with 2018. New Zealand’s production comes in at 3.0mhl for 2019, which is a decrease. This is the fourth year in a row that this country’s production has dropped.


These wine production estimates from OIV are updated annually and use data from 28 countries that make up 85% of the global wine production. They are a useful gauge to measure how climate change is affecting traditionally strong wine growing countries. While these figures have been published, OIV says that they are early estimates only and are likely to change as we move towards the end of the year.