The wine industry is constantly faced with new trends, challenges and the pressure to stay ahead of the competition. With that comes the opportunity to innovate.
Each year, Wine Industry Network recognizes five wine industry innovators — not just for their impressive ingenuity or technical advances — but because of how their product and/or service betters the North American wine industry.
By Jeff Siegel
Every winemaker should understand the importance of blending and how, if they don’t get it right, their wine may not reflect the best of the vintage. “But the practical methods of making blend samples are archaic and tedious,” says Meera Singh, who handles marketing and sales and is the co-owner of GOfermentor, which makes high-tech fermentation and storage products.
“Samples are measured out using graduated cylinders, mixed together and tasted. This method is slow, and only a few blends can be evaluated in an hour. The labor-intensive process can result in a winemaker accepting a blend that could be vastly improved by just a few more adjustments.”
Which, frankly, wasn’t good enough for Singh and partner Vijay Singh, Ph.D., a leading biotech researcher. They also own New Jersey’s Sky Acres winery and, says Meera, “We realized how tedious conventional methods using graduates and beakers were. It was difficult to remake a blend for additional evaluation. Also, sometimes the blend was incorrectly recorded, making it impossible to reproduce.”
In response, they developed GOblend, a laboratory instrument that was three years in development that can automatically make blends of up to four different wines, fixing the percentages at the click of a button. Goodbye, beakers and graduates.
“We blend in our winery, and found it was difficult to remake a blend for additional evaluation,” says Meera. “Also, sometimes the blend was incorrectly recorded, which made it impossible to reproduce. We realized an automated blending device could help a winery make better wines.”
GOblend has four containers for the component wines to be used in the blend. The winemaker places samples of each of the wines into the machine containers. Then, using an app on a tablet, the winemaker decides the percentage of each wine in the blend. With a click, the machine generates the blend in seconds. The accuracy on any component is +/- 1 ml, says Vijay.
Sample volume can be set from 50 ml to 200 ml. The winemaker can then taste the sample, and make adjustments – say, increase the amount of wine number 3 to 15% while lowering wine 2 to 5%. Another click on the app and the new sample is made.
Blend recipes can be stored and recalled later — in just minutes — so the winemaker can remake an older blend to evaluate it again. Blend characteristics like color and body can be recorded, and blend recipes can be sent by email to the winery or exported to Excel. An optional printer can print out the blend on the spot.
Perhaps most important, the data for each blend is kept in the app on the tablet, which connects using local Bluetooth. That means no cloud storage or internet connection, making the blending data secure.
“Most wineries do not take blending seriously enough, especially small producers,” says Meera. “They make a few blends and call it a day. They could make much better wines if more effort was made. This is one reason our wines have won so many awards.
“Some have the mistaken opinion that wines should not be blended but rather left as 100% varietal. This is simply not true. The French always blend because nature is not always perfect. Acidity, body, color and all the rest need to be adjusted by palate.”
Which is now made easy using a few clicks of the GOblend.
Jeff Siegel is an award-winning wine writer, as well as the co-founder and former president of Drink Local Wine, the first locavore wine movement. He has taught wine, beer, spirits, and beverage management at El Centro College and the Cordon Bleu in Dallas. He has written seven books, including “The Wine Curmudgeon’s Guide to Cheap Wine.”