With climate change threatening the wine industry due to changing temperatures and droughts, how we grow grapes will likely have to adapt to remain a viable industry. On the other hand, producers have become more conscious about how wine is grown, produced, packaged, and shipped, and how all of this affects the environment and contributes to climate change.
Another reason the wine industry is changing – it has been more difficult to find labor in recent years. According to a ProWein Business Report, almost every other company (45%) in the wine industry reports having been affected by staff shortages in 2021 and 2022.
The wine industry will have to evolve to keep up with fluctuating temperatures, droughts, and labor shortages. From growing the grapes to packaging and shipping the wine, let’s look at innovations future-proofing the wine industry:
Growing and Harvesting
While much of the growing and harvesting process in wine production has been done by hand, labor shortages are making this much more difficult to accomplish. Here’s where robots and AI can help out; Ted, a robot from Naïo Technologies, can roam through vineyards, eliminating weeds and pruning vines (featured as cover photo). VineScout uses robots to analyze key data points such as nitrogen levels in the soil and canopy temperatures. Grapebot, created at UC Davis, can move autonomously through vineyards to transport tubs of harvested grapes.
If you find yourself in the home of Vino Verde (Douro Valley, Portugal), you might stumble upon wine being brewed in massive concrete vats, thanks to Tatiana Sá Marques. Using her engineering degree to develop novel concrete wine tanks. WiseShape’s upcycled concrete wine tanks have natural insulation properties (lowering energy consumption), and excellent durability, requiring fewer replacements over time.
Oh, and what about the waste, the grape skins, seeds, and stems, that comes from winemaking? Well, you can actually drink it. In recent years, some winemakers have been experimenting with Piquette, which is a low-alcohol beverage made from leftover grape skins. Technically not wine, it falls somewhere between a beer or cider at 4-5%, and has a slight fizziness.
Sicily, the largest wine-producing region in Italy by mass, experienced over 650 deadly fires this past summer – wildfires increasing in frequency and extremity is a consequence of rising temperatures. Wineries on the island have committed to working with O-I Glass to create a circular economy, using recycled glass and lighter glass bottles to package Sicilian wine.
Besides lighter glass bottles, how else is wine packaging being innovated? While we’ve had canned wine on the market for a while, companies like Nomadica are elevating the perception of this packaging with its all-natural, sulfite-free, orange wine (which is all the rage right now).
Juliet is doing the same with its boxed wine. Launched last year, the company calls itself “the luxury boxed wine with a lower carbon footprint”.
We can’t forget paper wine bottles! Frugalpac works with wineries and spirit companies to transition to paper bottles, which weigh less than 3 ounces, resulting in a weight almost five times lighter than a regular glass bottle.
Future-proofing the wine industry
Climate change and labor shortages pose real threats to traditional winemaking, but vineyards across the globe are rising to the occasion with innovation and agility. From the adoption of novel production methods to the eco-conscious redesign of packaging, the industry is not just adapting but also contributing to a more sustainable future. As winemakers continue to refine their craft with both the environment and quality in mind, enthusiasts can look forward to enjoying their favorite wines knowing that each bottle reflects a commitment to adaptation and resilience. The story of wine is evolving, and with every challenge comes a new chapter of ingenuity. With that, let’s toast to the future.