May 12-13, 2020
Santa Rosa, CA
The rapid pace of technological innovation will likely have a dramatic impact on the wine industry over the next decade. In some cases, technology will offer solutions to problems facing grape growers and winemaker; in other cases, technology will revolutionize how we package, buy and consume wine. Here’s a closer look at 8 technology trends that will impact the future of wine.
The direct-to-consumer shipping model could be entirely disrupted if low-cost drones are able to deliver packages of wine to consumers. In some major urban cities, same day delivery of wine and alcohol is already the norm. So, get ready for the next big leap in delivery times. Some wine industry insiders suggest that nearly instantaneous wine delivery in 30 minutes or less will become the new norm.
Of course, the idea of using drones to deliver packages might sound futuristic, but keep in mind that mega-retailer Amazon already has a concept called Amazon Prime Air that involves flying drones capable of carrying packages of approximately 5 pounds (2.2 kilograms). So now that Amazon has purchased Whole Foods Market, what’s to stop Amazon from using drones to deliver private label wines from Whole Foods?
Wine purists might scoff at the idea of a wine future without glass bottles, but isn’t that what they said about screw top wine bottles and wine in cans and boxes? And just look at where we are today – winemakers are continually coming up with new ideas for packaging wine, and it’s quite likely that heavy glass bottles will go by the wayside. In fact, some technologists have proposed the idea of edible bottles made from sugar substitutes (e.g. isomalt), or compostable, non-plastic glass made from cornstarch. In an eco-friendly future, even the idea of recycling glass might strike some in the technology vanguard as being quaint and anachronistic. Why recycle a glass bottle when you can simply eat an edible bottle, producing no waste whatsoever?
We live in a digital era, right? So, if the paper is disappearing from our lives at a prodigious rate (including the disappearance of paper currency!), then is not logical to assume that paper will eventually disappear from wine packaging? Technologists are already talking about the label-less bottle. If people want to see what’s inside, they can just scan a QR code or launch an augmented reality video clip. In fact, a growing number of wine brands are already using Augmented Reality (AR) technology to deliver brand experiences right on the bottle. The most famous example is 19 Crimes, which pioneered the idea of “living wine labels.”
Think about how easy it is to purchase a can of Coke or Pepsi (or whatever your favourite beverage happens to be) from a vending machine. So why not wine vending machines, where people first use a biometric scanning device (such as a retina scanner) to determine that they are of legal drinking age and then wave their smartphone in front of the vending machine to pay for it. The smartphone already has stored all of your personal preferences, and within seconds, a can of your favourite wine can be dispensed.
If you think about the act of enjoying a glass of wine, it is already a multi-sensory experience. You first examine a glass of wine with your eyes, by holding the glass up to the light. You then smell the wine to get a sense of its overall flavour profile. Then, you sip the wine, activating your sense of taste. And it’s that type of multi-sensory experience that some wine brands might be able to re-create in the future, thanks to Virtual Reality (VR) technology. Brancott Estate Wines in New Zealand created one showcase experiment for VR. The winery created a virtual wine tasting experience that perfectly captured the sights, sounds, and yes, smells, of what it would be like to taste a wine in New Zealand.
If the current global warming climate change phenomenon continues, it will be harder and harder to grow grapes in the same region without a little help from scientists in the lab. So don’t be surprised if genetically modified grapes capable of withstanding warmer weather become the norm. In fact, some futurists have even predicted the rise of “test tube” wines, which would actually be wines made without any grapes whatsoever.
Most likely, artificial intelligence algorithms would be able to come up with the distinctive chemical, physical and biological traits of grapes, and then re-create all of these traits in the lab. “Real wine” (i.e. wine made from real grapes) might become a special privilege of wine collectors, who could celebrate special occasions by opening up a vintage bottle of wine “from before the great climate cataclysm.”
Would you trust the recommendation of an AI-powered robot? Keep in mind that already today people are asking AI voice assistants like Amazon Alexa for help with food and wine pairings. “Hey, Alexa, what goes well with a juicy steak and a side order of mashed potatoes?” Imagine a futuristic restaurant where you could request a friendly robot sommelier to appear at your table and help you make the perfect selection from the wine menu.
Hologram technology sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, but holograms are already being used in the entertainment world for music concerts and other entertainment events. (Just Google “Hologram Concert Tours” and you’ll see videos of performances by famous personalities in the music world who are no longer with us.)
Wineries might be able to leverage this technology to create some very unique tasting room experiences. Imagine sitting down to enjoy a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from the cellar and being surrounded by your favourite celebrities from the world of music, art, or film. Or, you could just request a one-on-one conversation with a winemaker hologram to find out how a certain wine is made.
Until now, the wine industry might have been slow to adopt new technological innovations. It was a world of tradition and family secrets passed down from generation to generation. But all of that is changing in the digital era. New technologies that are going mainstream are now impacting the world of wine as well.