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.


When is the best time to drink wine when it’s young or when it’s aged?

Fine wine collecting is an art. Some would say a science. And there is definitely some skill in knowing when to age a wine and when to enjoy it straight away.

Some wines age very well and should always be left in the cellar for a while. This is true even of some white wines. But others are more enjoyable if they’re consumed straight away. The best way to ensure you’re getting the best out of your vintage wines is to buy the good stuff early on. And when it’s ready to open, take your time and treat it carefully.


When is the best time to drink wine from your collection?

Whatever your taste in wine it can be tricky to know when to drink your stash. Wines do change as they age, and if you hang on to the bottles for too long, they can be ruined by the time you come to drink them.

This is a common occurrence with people who like to collect wine but aren’t quite sure how to do it well. Lots of people will automatically keep a wine in storage, assuming that aging it will mean a better flavour. But when they do eventually open it, they can be surprised. Conversely, they can also find a hidden gem.

It’s not always red wine that ages the best. Some sweet wines and white wines can also age well. This isn’t the case for all white wines of course. For example, white burgundy has a well-known issue of premature oxidation.


What is premature oxidation and how does it affect wines?

Also known as ‘premox’, premature oxidation was discovered when people realised that white wines were losing their fruity smells faster than anticipated. The fruity aroma in whites left to age too long transformed into heavier scents, such as honey. It was also discovered that the colour of the wine faded to brown.

It’s a form of accelerated aging that makes wines taste and smell worse. And it’s a problem when it happens to wines that are sometimes sold on the basis that they age well. In red wines, premox results in deep aromas, such as dried fruit and prune. While these smells are looked for in heavy wines like port, a young red shouldn’t age this way.


Drink whites and rosés young

In general, rosés and most crisp whites should not be aged. They should be enjoyed young. Having said that, Semillon and Riesling can age well. It’s sometimes down to personal taste. Whether you enjoy the complex flavours of aged whites is subjective. Modern tastes tend to run towards the fresh, fruity wines. Often, older vintages need specific food combinations to demonstrate their best flavours.

If you’re a wine collector with a taste for aged wines, then it’s a good plan to buy them while they’re young. Not only is this generally easier due to their availability, but it’s also cheaper. High quality wines are always cheaper when they first come onto the market. As they age, their prices rise.

Wines made in a good vintage year are the best investment. For example, 2016 was particularly good for Bordeaux and Rhone. Before you buy any more wine though, check your wine collection and find out exactly what you have.


Go by price – drink cheaper wines and store pricier vintages

A good rule of thumb is to go by price. Anything below £10 should be enjoyed pretty swiftly, while wines from £25 and above should be savoured. It’s simple enough to find out online how long a wine should be aged. Most fine wine merchants will include information about the drinking date.

If you’re not sure about the wines in your collection, the best way to enjoy them is to dive straight in. For any wines that have been hanging around for a while, it’s a good idea to have some back-ups ready, in case it’s corked or impaired. For any reds with a deposit build up, decant like you would a port, and be sure not to chill aged whites for too long.

When shopping for wine, buy from an established merchant like Ideal Wine Company. We have vintages, high-end varieties and plenty of information on wines to add to your collection.

What goes into the art of fine wine collecting?

Fine wine collecting is a fascinating asset class for investors. The fine wine market offers numerous financial opportunities for the discerning wine collector. Understanding how industry trends play out is important to understand how to take advantage of it.


Why is fine wine collecting so popular?

Wine is a drink that has always been in fashion. Back in the time of the Ancient Greeks, it was extolled as a source of pleasure, as well as a product that boosts economic growth. Thucydides, a Greek historian, wrote in the 5th century BC about civilisation and how it only really began when people learned to “cultivate the olive and wine.”

Many centuries after he wrote about wine, the market continues to thrive all around the world. And in the luxury wine sector, there are plenty of big money deals to be done. In 2016, French wine collector Christian Vanneque laid out an astonishing £75,000 for a single bottle of wine. He bought a bottle of Ch.d’Yquem 1811, and made it the single most expensive white wine sold in history.


What makes a successful fine wine collector?

Technological developments and a global economy have transformed wine from simply a pleasurable drink to a source of great financial reward – if you know what you’re doing as a collector. So, how to you build a collection of fine wine?

Successful wine investors and collectors generally have two main qualities. These are an instinct for a good deal, and a passion for fine wine. It’s important to understand the wine market itself, and that fine wine is a luxurious product. It also is one of the few asset classes that improves as it ages. Because it is produced in small, limited quantities, fine wine also becomes rarer over the years.


Fine wine is an ever-evolving market

And to successfully invest in fine wine, it’s vital to understand how the market is changing. There have been many changes for the fine wine market during the last ten years. New routes have been opened up, making it easier for fine wine collectors to buy wine from across the world. For example, there has been a surge of US interest in wines sold by traditional London vendors, which has put pressure on an already limited supply.

Buying fine wine online has also become much more accessible and has had the added effect of making fine wine prices more transparent. Social media has also increased the sway and influence of wine critics. In many ways, the fine wine market has become more mainstream. Check out our Collector’s Guide for information on fine wines and how to begin your personal collection.

Changes we are seeing this year include a diminished appetite for Bordeaux fine wines. Around ten years ago, the Asian market upped their interest in this marketplace, which only covered a few wine estates in the region. Due to this interest from Hong Kong and China, prices shot up faster than the secondary growths. By 2013, there was a marked contraction of this market as prices fell away. However, since then it has levelled out into a more mature market.

In 2019, Burgundy is seeing huge price polarisations. For example, the very top of the scale, including Roumier, Leroy and DRC have increased hugely. They are now going for more than £10,000 per bottle. However, other wine estates that used to be considered on a par with these are reaching far lower prices. Ponsot Clos Roche is selling for £3,500 per case of 12 bottles. This is the case for even the finest vintages.

For newcomers to fine wine collecting, the marketplace can appear confusing. It is packed with many different wine merchants, producers, regions and vintages. The best advice is to only buy the finest wines from the best winemakers. Identifying the best wines for your collection is the first step. Second, ensure you buy wines that have been kept under bond. This means in Government controlled warehouses that ensure proper temperature control. This also adds a layer of security that helps to stop the possibility of buying forgeries of fine wines.