The Wine Industry and The Pace of Change

Henry Yuen – Wine columnist

The Vancouver Sun is celebrating its 100th birthday, how fantastic! In such a fast changing world, it is hard to imagine any institution in the community could last a century and still going strong, certain blue print must be done right for sure to achieve this feat.

Ever since the industrial revolution, what people strive for is efficiency. The pace of change is so fast nowadays that whatever is created usually has a very short life span. .  This put a lot of pressure on businesses. In order to adapt, they have to keep re-inventing themselves and constantly prepare to change appropriately to stay in the game.

As for the wine industry, I am sure it is more or less of the same game. While the pressure of “doing it the old way” versus “using new techniques to increase efficiency” are imminent, the two may or may not work in harmony, all other factors considered.  There is no real fine line between what is old and new because the new could become old in a flash!

Recent discussion with Michael Bartier, winemaker at Haywire Winery, confirms this point of view. With the advancement in science, winemaking does benefit from new technology and sciences to a certain degree. Nowadays, soil content can now be easily analyzed in fine details and weather forecast is a lot more accurate simply by moving the mouse on a pad. However, according to Michael, his winemaking process still follows the try and test protocol and, barring any unusual circumstances, he will still stick to the traditional way in crafting his wines! Similarly, for viticulture management, there is no substitute in understanding the terrior by getting dirty from digging the dirt, feeling and looking at the soil. Relying on valuable on-hand experiences still plays an important role in winemaking regardless of all the new techniques and equipments made available. In other words, having the latest equipment and tools does not mean making better wines. And no matter how much the pressure and temptation modern technology and advanced science are bringing forward, the wine industry is far from abandoning the old ways of farming, growing and making good wines.


:Great soil and climate, experience and hard work make good wine, not high-tech. (Photo credit: Lionel Trudel)

Mark Sheridan, General Manager at Hester Creek Estate Winery, shares the same sentiment even though he admits the other aspects of his overall wine operation do benefit somewhat from the fast pace of change. The popularity of social media benefits the marketing and promotional side significantly. Reaching target customers and connecting with customers directly is so much easier these days. With social media such as Facebook, YouTube and twitter, his customers can now get much closer to the winery and can fully share and feel the passion behind his wines. Yet, Mark stresses that the fundamentals of growing grapes did not change over the years. What change was that science and technology enables timely and accurate information such as soil and moisture condition and a complete log of weather forecast to help make better decisions.

Image Mark believes traditional method is fundamental.

Image Good grapes make good wine - a simple truth!

There is no doubt the fast pace of change has an impact on the science of wine making. From using the traditional cork to screw cap and now box wine, the speed of such changes may be overwhelming. Nevertheless, in the hands of experienced winemakers and experts in the field, sound controls and decisions will always be there.

Sticking to the fundamental of wine making but applying the progress in science and technology to complement the effort seems to be the winning formula. We have beautifully crafted wines to prove just that!