Wine’s journey from the grapevine to your glass has evolved at a leisurely pace over the centuries, with each gentle change being carefully considered before being adopted by the world’s best winemakers. In a world where technology and artificial intelligence (AI) are rapidly transforming every industry, how winemakers embrace innovation while guarding tradition makes this evolution fascinating to watch. Fortunately for our evening tipple, technology is giving winemakers fresh insights into harvesting operations, enabling them to manage shorter vintages brought on by climate change, and ultimately producing better quality wine for consumers.

The Intersection of Art and Science

New Zealand enjoyed its largest wine harvest ever in 2022 – a monumental achievement with record-breaking yields. At the same time, the country’s winemakers are seeing continued global demand for their famously distinctive Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. One of these winemakers is Indevin, New Zealand’s largest producer of high-quality wine and most known for iconic household brands such as Villa Maria, Esk Valley, Vidal, and Thornbury. The company produces up to 90 million litres of wine every year across five New Zealand wineries, accounting for approximately 20% of New Zealand’s wine exports.

A bottle of Sauvignon Blanc Wine on the centre of a table dining set.
One of Indevin's wine brands, Villa Maria

With such vast operations and aspirations to continue growing globally, the company faced the daunting task of managing the intricate and rapidly growing harvest process efficiently, while combating the seasonal challenges brought on by climate change. Two years ago, Indevin turned to Amazon Web Services (AWS) to help digitise and streamline operations, to drive efficiencies, improve quality, and reduce costs. Leveraging the latest AWS cloud technology, Indevin started a journey that would ultimately bring art and science together.

Leveraging real-time data for precision harvesting

Indevin focused its initial efforts on transforming wine production, which enters a critical phase during the annual harvest at vineyards across New Zealand. This crucial period is both short and intense, lasting only four weeks and demanding the upmost precision around the clock. Each year the tempo and duration of harvests are accelerated and shortened by warmer weather, with rising temperatures impacting the growth cycle of grapevines. Making high quality wine from these abbreviated harvests is more challenging as optimal fruit composition changes, affecting factors like sugar levels, acidity, and ripeness, all of which contribute to the overall quality and taste of the wine.

To de-risk the fragile harvesting process, Indevin built a single source of truth with AWS for every aspect of the harvesting process – from vineyards, harvesters, harvest bins, to the trucks and the wineries using internet of things (IoT) sensors. These sensors provide real-time data on wine presses, loading bins, pumps, flow meters, and temperatures, and have enabled Indevin to improve its throughput by 30%. This increase stems from better matching the harvest output to grape processing and storage capabilities, as well as providing early warnings to teams during harvest to effectively manage adverse weather conditions, production issues, and optimise ground teams.

Four staffs in green vest are picking grapes

“Climate change is making harvest periods shorter and more challenging,” said Jason Cook, Group Winemaker at Indevin. “With the help of AWS, we navigated the chaos of the record-breaking 2022 harvest with calmness and confidence. Winemaking is an interesting paradigm of science and art. To make wine you need a positive tension between the two, however the manufacturing of wine lends itself to the ‘facts not feelings’ mantra, so having this data is invaluable.”

A guy with green shirt and glasses.
Jason Cook, Group Winemaker at Indevin

More Sustainable Wine with Visualisations

One of the key benefits of working with AWS is the ability to predict demand accurately and optimise daily capacity and efficiency using visual dashboards on Amazon QuickSight. These dashboards aggregate data and present the information visually, making it easy for employees to monitor operations. It also makes onboarding new vintage staff easier, allocate resources more efficiently, and manage unpredictable weather conditions seamlessly.

“Cloud capabilities have revolutionised how we manage our harvests, with our employees able to monitor operations on their mobile devices from anywhere,” said Cook. “This gives us the agility we need to act quickly and get the most from every hour of harvest.”

The economics of winemaking are tight, and its crucial to harvest grapes on time to ensure exceptional quality. Using AWS IoT Greengrass, Indevin deploys sensors in the winery that collect a wealth of data when the grapes move through large wine making equipment like crushers, presses, fermentation tanks, and aging vessels, before finally reaching the wine-making float pool. Using AWS, Indevin can rapidly identify bottlenecks, so if a wine press falls behind in production, dashboards make it easy to work backwards to see exactly what is causing the misstep. It could be a traffic issue on the journey from the vineyard, a weather incident, or a staffing issue – Indevin can act quickly and even predict situations to maintain its rhythm.

A monitoring dashboard in kiloLiter
Amazon QuickSight dashboard: real-time float pool readings
Approaching restoration of the region’s community, biodiversity and catchment lands in a holistic manner is key.

“Advances in data analytics and IoT are enabling organisations and sectors like agriculture and manufacturing to drive productivity and cost efficiencies across their business, while supporting experimentation and innovation,” said Haren Samarasekera, head of enterprise for AWS New Zealand. “Indevin is using cloud technology to make faster and more precise decisions and bring order to the intense harvesting period, and we look forward to helping this innovative company continue to drive yields and produce high quality wine.”

In the intricate dance of wine production, harvesting grapes requires the agility that easily visualised data provides to help winemakers keep in step with all the moving parts. Indevin is innovating with the cloud while preserving the essence of its craft to make wine that is better for our palates and kinder to the environment. In an industry steeped in tradition and wary of change, introducing innovation like this should be celebrated.

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