Old fashioned winemaking meets new technology

The Economist has a fascinating article on the use of new farm and food technologies in the wine industry.  The developments are interesting for two reasons. First is that wine making and drinking is, for many people, the embodiment of artisinal and "natural".  Second, many of the technological developments are coming out of France, which might actually help adoption.  

Here are a few interesting segments:

Now, however, the stigma of automation is declining, and more prestigious producers have become open to the use of technology in winemaking. That has prompted inventors to devise new machines to meet their exacting needs. Because consumers remain seduced by the notion that wine should be made by humble farmers with as little intervention as possible, fine-wine labels still try to keep their experiments under wraps. But they are quietly deploying technology in a new way: not just to make bad wine decent, or to make good wine more cheaply, but to make already-great wines greater still.


France is the undisputed global leader in wine technology. As Mr Merritt notes, the country has a greater demand for mechanisation than America because its agricultural wages are higher. And France’s reputation means that its elite winemakers, unlike those in other countries, do not have to worry about criticism from elite French winemakers.

The whole thing is interesting: technologies discussed relate to automated picking (and selecting for grapes for optimal quality), new bottle closures (that work better than the old cork), reverse osmosis technologies (that improve flavor and control excess alcohol content), forgery-proof wines, precision irrigation technologies, flavor enhancing chemistry, and many others.   

It will be interesting to see if preferences for better taste and lower cost trump nostalgia.  Regarding one of the new technologies, the article conveyed:

WineSecrets, a firm in California, even lets clients try the same wine at a host of different alcohol levels to see which one tastes best. “Winemakers can’t be honest about what they do, because they’ll be accused of manipulation,” says Clark Smith, an American consultant credited with popularising RO. “When winemakers hear ‘manipulation’, they think, ‘What, you don’t want me to pick the fruit or crush the grapes?’ They’re forced to dissemble or they get demonised.”