It's almost back-to-school season, and wine folks are no exception!
It’s an oft-heard lament in the wine industry that when it comes to adopting new technologies, we’re ten years behind the curve. Fortunately though, we can report that this certainly isn’t the case for many wineries, who showcased how quickly they are adopting new software, mobile & social media tools at the Wine Industry Technology Symposium (WITS) earlier this month—and how these technologies are revolutionizing their business models.
This year marked the 8th annual WITS, which was held July 10th and 11th at the Napa Valley Marriott. Over 170 attendees, many of whom represented wineries in Napa, Sonoma, and beyond, came to the two-day symposium to explore new wine-related technologies and network with their fellow industry guests. Much of this took place at the Technology Showcase in the hotel’s grand ballroom, which featured several vendors of vineyard and winery maintenance technology, along with purveyors of new apps and platforms for promoting winery offerings. One particularly cool platform we liked is VinoVisit, which allows visitors to wine country to schedule tasting room reservations (similar to how OpenTable lets users make restaurant reservations). Over 100 wineries have signed on to the service, which also lets users book other winery offerings, like horseback rides through the vineyards. Another exciting innovation on high display—literally—at the WITS Technology Showcase was WineTwits, a virtual tasting platform built to organize Twitter conversations about wine. WineTwits held a #WITS2012 wine tasting, which featured wines from sponsors Wente Vineyards as well as Franciscan, Hahn and Garnet. By the end of the tasting, over 500 people around the world had fired off tweets about it, reaching 2.8 million followers on Twitter.
iPads also made a big splash in terms of technologies wineries are now utilizing to help reach consumers in particular, to increase efficiencies in the vineyards. During one of the WITS breakout sessions, Joshua Cairns from Hahn Winery talked about how using specially designed apps has helped the winery track water use and vineyard management practices. He also discussed how the winery’s sales team has become more efficient at on and off-premise meetings, since they can now tackle administrative duties on their super portable iPads instead of clunky, wi-fi dependent laptops. Visitors of Hahn Winery’s tasting room even use iPads to take notes and email themselves, feeding addresses into the winery’s database.
These developments are exciting, to be sure, though there is still much more that wineries can do to adapt and be responsive to their business’—and customers’—needs. But, in the words of WITS co-chair J. Smoke Wallin, “Wineries and vineyards are used to planning what to plant now to be growing in a decade, and we are talking about how to respond to a tweet in 15 seconds.” There is still work to be done to bridge that disconnect, but it’s encouraging to know that the industry is getting closer all the time!