Let’s face it, I love wine, specially red wine. And given my profession, I love technology. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised when my couple and I visited SOMMOS winery facilities, in Barbastro, north of Spain.
The winery is located in a privileged scenery, on the foot of the Pyrenees, and it’s main building (by architect Jesús Marino Pascual) is really astonishing. But what caught my attention was in the inside.
SOMMOS Somontano is a hypertech winery that extensively uses new technologies and Internet of Things (IoT) devices to improve all their wine making processes, from grape harvesting to production and distribution. This way they improve the quality of their products and operational efficiencies. Almost everything is automated. Harvesting is partially made by automated machines that pick the grapes up only when the humidity and temperature conditions are appropriate. And this ideal moment is, of course, defined based on the information provided by the several sensors (humidity and temperature sensors, dendrometers…) that are spread out.
Once grapes are harvested, the selection of the best ones is not done as it used to traditionally be (i.e. manually). An automated system based on high-resolution cameras analyses the size, shape and color of each grape and decides which ones are suitable for production and which ones must be discarded.
The next eye-catching objects we find in the winery are the giant vats where the grape juice is stored and where the wine production starts. We can’t ignore the enormous hanging vats either; they are called IFOs (Identified Flying Objects) and they are automatically controlled by an impressive cartesian robot that covers the whole surface and is in charge of the process known as “délestage” or rack-and-return (a maceration technique designed to help optimize the exchange between the liquid and solid phase by emptying the fermentation vessel of liquid while aerating the juice).
Once the wine is ready for the ageing process, it’s carried to the barrels room not by people but by Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs). These robots are in charge of not only transporting the wine but also of the automated transfer between barrels.
This synergy between technology and industry so traditional as the wine industry yields a production of more than 2.5 million bottles per year. As an example of how technology can improve a winery’s production, the grape selection machine we mentioned before is able to select up to 10.000 kg of grapes per hour; you would need around 40 people to reach those numbers ensuring the same quality.
SOMMOS is not the only winery using new technologies in their processes. There is a whole new generation of winemakers having technology as one of their main allies in the process of making great wines.
Ericsson, together with MyOmega, is working in a pilot project in Mosselle valley, Germany, to show how best use the data gathered from different vineyards in order to improve the final products. At least 4 important wineries in that area (Clemens, Franzen, Haart and Knebel) are taking advantages of this real-time data collection.
The system gathers information about wind temperature and humidity, soil temperature and humidity and solar intensity, among others. With this information, obtained in real time, winemakers have a powerful tool that allows them to:
- Maximize the grape harvesting → The information they get allows defining the perfect timing for harvesting so grapes have the best quality and the least risks, yielding more quality and fruitful harvestings.
- Improve the wine quality → Winemakers get objective information about the status of the vineyards, so they have more control to produce the wine they want.
- Remote monitoring → winemakers can access this information anywhere, so they don’t need to spend so long in the vineyards.
- Foster ecological measures → constant monitoring saves energy and water and also allows to use eco-friendly phytosanitary strategies.
In California, Hahn Family Wines has a full record of quality wine production. However, Verizon has recently helped them to install hundreds of sensors in their vineyards to get higher quality grapes in a more efficient way.
These sensors measure, among others, soil humidity and they communicate with drones and meteorological stations located in the vineyards. With the information gathered by these elements, winemakers can decide if grapes are too small (or too big) or if they are at risk of being attacked by fungus or any other plague. Additionally, thanks to an automated watering system that is adapted to the conditions of each area, the use of water is much more efficient.
Last September, Spain’s Tax Agency published the latest data about Spanish wine exports. Spain exported 1717.8 million litres (+2.7%), valued in 2029.5 million € (+7.5%). It seems obvious how important the winemaking industry in Spain is and it also looks clear that, in order to keep competitivity of our wines, our wineries will have to adopt technology as the quality of their products and their efficiency improve. The “Connected Wine” is already here.