Wine Innovation Insights

Global macroeconomics are impacting the pricing of select vintages from First Growth Châteaux and Vineyards around the world.

Instead of the market being driven drinking preferences, it is now being driven by brands and the macroeconomics of the countries where individual's are purchasing the wine.

Soon the wine industry will go through another cycle of rebalancing pricing versus demand.

Our insights into wine are listed below in the form of articles and interviews with wine makers, industry executives and chateau owners for your perusal.

To learn more say [email protected]teco.com

How Autonomous Driving will Impact the Wine Market

With fit-for-purpose autonomous vehicles, the Napa Valley wine market could have a greater than $50 billion impact on the U.S. economy.

Autonomous driving will impact many economic sectors – even some that you wouldn’t think of at first. In my opinion, the Californian wineries could be one of them. With changing demographics, growth of on-demand transportation and a decline in licensed drivers, the rise of driverless cars could hugely benefit the California wine country.

Fit-for-purpose autonomous vehicles would open up new business models while at the same drastically increasing safety. In the end, it could be a win-win situation for wineries and customers alike.

In the future, fit-for-purpose autonomous vehicles will be designed for individuals visiting California wine country. These vehicles will be designed to accommodate groups of individuals and will be complete with on-board dual temperature controlled wine storage.

Additionally, these autonomous vehicles will be able to provide an experience that is unique and tailored to each individual with their own bespoke wine itineraries. Through the in-car infotainment systems, passengers will be able to learn about the wineries and winemakers prior to arriving at the winery.

This is an experience that few individuals have indulged in as of yet, but millions of Americans aspire to, as an estimated 229 million cases of wine from California wineries shipped in the U.S in 2015. At the time of shipping the wine the U.S. wine market had an estimated retail value of $31.9 billion. Silicon Valley Bank is forecasting the worldwide sales growth in the range of 9 – 13% for the premium wine segment in 2016.

Along with the growth of premium wine sales comes a changing demographic of fine wine connoisseurs and collectors. By 2021, Generation X will surpass Baby Boomers as the largest fine wine connoisseur demographic in the U.S. By 2026, Millennials will surpass Generation X to become the largest fine wine connoisseur demographic.

The changing demographics of fine wine connoisseurs is perfectly timed to intersect with the decline in licensed drivers and the advancement of autonomous vehicles.

According to a University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute report, the percentage of individuals with a driver’s license decreased steadily between 2011 and 2014, while the U.S. population grew by 7 million during that timeframe.

For individuals aged 16 to 44, the number of individuals who have a driver’s license has decreased from 91.8% in 1983 to 76.7% in 2014. While at the same time, wine consumption in the U.S. has grown from 528 million gallons in 1983 to 886 million gallons in 2014.

The decline in driver’s licenses is offset by the rapid growth of on-demand transportation. An average of 7.3 million individuals in the U.S. use a ride sharing service each month which equates to $5.6 billion in annual spending.

With the rapid growth of ride sharing along with the increase in wine consumption, the perfect symbiotic relationship is being created for the wine market.

This symbiotic relationship is echoed by Matt Dees, winemaker of JONATA and The Hilt who stated, “With the changing demographics and introduction of autonomous vehicles specifically designed for visitors to California wine regions, an exceptional opportunity to safely and comfortably enjoy the best California has been created.”

Mr. Dees is correct in his assertion. With the increase in individuals opting not to drive, the trend of fit for purpose autonomous vehicles will rapidly increase. Wineries and winemakers such as Mr. Dees stand to benefit from this trend all the while increasing the safety of those individuals traveling on public roads.

McKinsey is projecting that up to one in ten cars sold in 2030 will be a shared vehicle which will lead to the subsequent rise of a market for fit-for-purpose mobility solutions.

McKinsey is correct in their projection, but the fit-for-purpose mobility solution will start to evolve in 2020 as society starts the great migration towards a fully autonomous future powered by A.I.

The mobility migration to fully autonomous vehicles will have a positive impact on the wine industry. Passengers in fully autonomous vehicles will be able to engage in deep conversations and consume fine wine while the vehicle is traveling to their destination.

For individuals visiting California wine country, fit-for-purpose autonomous vehicles will chauffeur wine connoisseurs from one tasting to another. These vehicles could be equipped with virtual reality headsets, which would allow passengers to experience the vineyard during harvest prior to arriving and tasting the wines. In-autonomous vehicle virtual reality experiences will allow wine tourists to build an emotional bond with the vineyards and wines prior to arriving.

Experiences as mentioned above will enhance the experience and eliminate the need to drive after a day of tastings will improve the safety of all individuals, not just those in the vehicle or traveling on the road. While improving safety, autonomous vehicles will also increase the amount of revenue that wineries could generate from their tasting rooms through increased sales.

Today, Napa Valley has a $50 billion economic impact on the U.S. economy.

Tomorrow, with fit-for-purpose autonomous vehicles designed for individuals visiting California wine country, Napa Valley could have an even a greater economic impact on the U.S. economy.

How Autonomous Driving will Impact the Wine Market is an article written by Brulte & Company Co-Founder Grayson Brulte that was originally published on Continental’s 2025AD.

Jean-Francois Boras: The Innovation Interview

Jean-Francois Boras, Co Proprietor and Winemaker of Domaine de Bellevue shares his thoughts and insights on innovation, technology and Domaine de Bellevue.

Jean-Francois was not born into a wine family, but he had this dream when he was a teenager of having a wine property in Bordeaux for the ‘magic of wine’ and for the lifestyle. It is also because it is the only product that you can make which is like a piece of art, from the earth of a very particular ‘terroir’ to the table of great people on the other side of the planet. With wine, you give extraordinary moments of shared pleasure.

He first attended a school of business and after ‘Sciences Po’, a political science school in France for his studies. After, he spent two years in the Navy serving as an officer. Then Jean-Francois worked for several companies as advisor to industry (EDF, Total, Framatone, Astrium Herakles) all over the world. After 15 years in this industry, he finally found Domaine de Bellevue after more than 5 years of searching for the right place to make this wine project.

The very ancient Domaine, was had been abandoned for 40 years, so it took a lot of hard work, intuition and imagination for building this dream into a reality.

>How do you define innovation and what does it mean to you?

Innovation for me is what takes every human being to a better future and what takes all humanity to a better future. Innovation has to be focussed on human beings and not on profit. Innovations have also to take care of the environment in order to leave the planet in a better condition than the way we found it. The planet doesn’t belong to us, we are only the hosts of the planet as Saint Exupery said.

What industry needs to embrace innovation and take more risks?

I don’t think that ‘more’ is always synonymous with ‘better’. In a lot of ways we are in a civilization based on quantity “more, more, more”. I prefer a lot of ‘quality’, a civilization based on “better, better, better”. We have to progress, we have to make things better for increasing the moral and material situation of humanity, but like Motaigne said (a French philosopher of XVI century, born in Perigord, my country of birth, and mayor of Bordeaux, my country of choice) : “Il faut raison garder”.

What is the best piece of advice that you have been given and received?

The best piece of advice I have been given and received is “Deviens ce que tu es” (become what you are) That means that every human being has treasures inside of himself that need to come to life.

What is your greatest achievement and why?

To have become I really am, incomplete and not perfect, with a respect of my values. Domaine de Bellevue and Le Grand Société are a part of this achievement, giving special things, exclusivity, authenticity and special moments, to members, people that have got a lot of things in their lives.

Newspapers and Books: Digital or Physical?

I like the physical contact with books and paper, I spend at least three hours a day reading and have always 8 or 10 books on my bedside table waiting for me. My family on my Mother’s side were a family of printers for 250 years! I spent a lot of time when I was a child in the workshop of my Grandfather with the odour of ink and paper.

The Financial Times recently called the Le Grand Société “an innovative debenture model”. Why did you and Tim Griffiths decide on this business model for Domaine de Bellevue?

We decided to commercialize Domaine de Bellevue wine with this innovative model because we do believe it is a really unique product, similar to a piece of art.

The commercialization system has to fit perfectly with the product. An exclusive product like Domaine de Bellevue wine has to be distributed via an exclusive club like Le Grand Société to ensure traceability, quality and personal service, so that there is a direct link between the members and the property. We also believe in the “civilization of wine” which means that members of Le Grand Société can meet everywhere in the world, across the borders, across civilizations and different cultures.

What were your greatest takeaways from being a French naval officer and a management consultant that you applied to your turnaround effort of Domaine de Bellevue?

From being a management consultant, the fact that I travelled a lot and was in business in many industries, and many countries. The fact that when you are an international businessman, you need to feel a direct link to something that gives you roots, emotions and pleasure and be part of an exclusive club which is like a “secret garden”.

From being a navy officer, the importance of details that makes a journey very pleasant or a nightmare. The character for struggling with difficult elements with ‘self control’. The ability of always knowing where you are and where you want to go, with humility.
These insights are part of the philosophy, vision and strategy of Domaine de Bellevue.

As the popularity of Domaine de Bellevue wines continues to grow among members and wine collectors, how will you ensure that each and every bottle is genuine? Are you currently experimenting with any technologies that would prevent counterfeiting?

It is true that Domaine de Bellevue’s reputation is growing fast and we are very happy and proud of this. You can’t find a bottle of Domaine de Bellevue Le Grand Société in a shop or a restaurant as we only distribute directly from the vineyard to the final customer in several countries where we have members, such as UK, USA, Hong Kong etc. So you have to prove that you are a member if you want to sell a bottle of our wine.

Some technologies exist for preventing counterfeiting and we are looking into these. We are very sensitive of giving the best to our members.

While creating an intimate bespoke experience for Le Grand Société how do you balance the need for innovative technologies all while ensuring the highest level of customer service?

We consider the wine of Domaine de Bellevue as a piece of art. We don’t utilize a lot of technology, but we are very watchful regarding all the research and development projects in the wine industry sector, for example ideas for reducing the use of phyto products in the vineyard or sulfites in the wine making process. It is not because we are in a traditional ancestral activity sector, based on the earth that we refuse all the innovation that could be better for Domaine de Bellevue, but for respecting what I mentioned in question 1, the respect for nature and humanity.

How will the growing interest of foreign buyers in the Bordeaux region have an impact on how you market and manage the growth of Le Grand Société?

A lot of people from foreign countries, would like to have a ‘Chateau in Bordeaux’. It is a very delicate business, not really for everybody – as you need a great investment, not only with money, but a personal investment too. A lot of things can’t be delegated. I know a lot of industry sectors and really winemaking is one of the most complicated jobs you can have in the world. You have to grow vines and ensure high quality grapes, you must be a good winemaker and also a good salesman as you need to be the ambassador for your wine. It is easy to make a good wine, it is very difficult to make a great wine, as firstly you need to have the right “terroir”, but it is the day to day details, and precisions that makes the difference. “A great wine can only flourish in the shadow if its maker” as we say in Bordeaux.

We do not want to grow but we want to offer to our members a unique experience based on exclusivity, emotions and authenticity.

Manfred Krankl: The Innovation Interview

Manfred Krankl, Owner & Winemaker of SINE QUA NON shares his thoughts and insights on innovation, technology and SINE QUA NON.

Born in Austria, Manfred started his career in the hospitality industry after graduating from the Hotel School in Gmunden, Austria. After completing school and his apprenticeship, Manfred worked in various Austrian hotels in different capacities including the positions of cook, waiter, bartender and sommelier.

In the spring of 1978, without good reason or plan, Manfred left Austria with the notion of immigrating to Canada. Manfred arrived in Toronto with little English language skills, and no work permits or any work set up. After several weeks of nothing and money getting thin, he went on a freight ship to Greece. During his time in Greece, Manfred bummed around Greece – various islands, as well as the mainland – for seven months, until the greenbacks were completely exhausted. During his time in Greece, Manfred met his first wife, who was from Los Angeles, CA.

After Greece, Manfred moved back to his native Austria for a year and worked in a mountain hotel resort for a year. In October of 1980, Manfred moved to Los Angeles, CA. Over the next few years he had three children, Andreas, Nikolas and Annika and settled into his first job in the U.S. His initial job for only four months was at the Cheese and Wine Store of Beverly Hills. This was followed by a job as the Director of Food & Beverage at the Westwood Plaza Hotel. During his tenure at the Westwood Plaza Hotel, Manfred was later promoted to General Manager, a job he held until early 1988.

In the spring of 1988 Manfred formed a partnership with Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton to open a restaurant and a bakery. On  January 3, 1989, the partnership opened La Brea Bakery and in the spring, Manfred met his current wife Elaine. Then on August 16, 1989 they opened Campanile Restaurant. Both businesses were in the same building, an old gray brick building that was originally constructed by Charlie Chaplin. In addition to serving as Managing Partner of both businesses, Manfred adopted the job of wine buyer for Campanile.

From 1990 through 1993 Manfred produced several “project wines.” Wines that were made with other winemakers, at their wineries, and originally intended for the Campanile restaurant only. Then in 1993 together with his wife Elaine, they founded SINE QUA NON. In 1994 they produced the first wine under the SINE QUA NON brand. A Syrah called ‘Queen of Spades’. As the brand grew, they increased production somewhat in 1995 and made first white wine under the SQN brand, called ‘The Bride’ as well as two Rhone-style reds.

In 1997 Manfred separated the business entities of Campanile Restaurant and La Brea Bakery in order to facilitate the expansion of the ever growing Bakery. At that time gave up all day-to-day management responsibilities at Campanile and instead functioned as President and CEO of La Brea Bakery which was by then producing bread in several locations and was growing rapidly and on a national basis. The rapid growth of La Brea Bakery was happening all while SINE QUA NON was starting to gradually grow.

Soon thereafter in 2001, a 22 acre vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills appellation was planted. The vineyard is called “Eleven Confessions” and is planted to predominantly Syrah and Grenache, with some Roussanne and a single acre of Viognier. During that summer as the new vineyard was being completed, Manfred sold La Brea Bakery, which had grown to have more than 500 employees at that time and was selling bread in 40+ states of the U.S. and Mexico.

After the sale of La Brea Bakery, Manfred consulted for the new bakery owners for two years. After the consulting engagement, in the summer of 2003, Manfred dedicated his full attention and efforts to SINE QUA NON and the production of wine.

In 2004 Manfred and his wife Elaine moved to a new home on a ranch in Oak View, California, where they planted a six acre vineyard dedicated to Syrah, Grenache and Roussanne. Then in 2008 they planted another 6.5 acres of vineyards at their Oak View ranch called Cumulus and started new brand called NEXT of KYN that is dedicated to the wines produced from that vineyard.

In 2009 they purchased property in Tepusquet Canyon and re-planted a tiny 2 acre vineyard called Molly Aïda. Then in 2010, they purchased a large ranch with a 15 acre vineyard near Los Alamos called The Third Twin. Soon after the purchase of The Third Twin, Manfred planted an additional 11 acres. The First fruit to arrive from that vineyard block will be in 2014.

How do you define innovation and what does it mean to you?

Of course in the most literal sense innovation means doing something new, but to me
innovation has many connotations. Most of all it is an ability, in my mind really a necessity, to think freely and logically and without preconceived ideas. It is a way of operating without the shackles and dogmas of often mindless traditions. It is combining imagination with intelligence in order to be creative. And creativity is intelligence having fun. And when one is having fun creating, innovation…new ideas…come naturally.

What industry needs to embrace innovation and take more risks?

All industries better constantly re-evaluate and take calculated risks. Everything is always in motion. There is no such thing as a sustainable culmination point. Things either move up or down. So they better be moving in an upward motion. And in order to maintain such a trajectory one has to continuously be innovative and alert and never rest on one’s dry laurels. It is also vitally important to remember that it can be a great risk NOT to do something. To become stagnant, scared or overly cautious. An innovative, bold and brave move may bring great success to a person. So much so that then risk aversion becomes the prime goal.

The ancient Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi said: “When an archer is shooting for nothing, he has all the skill. If he shoots for a brass buckle, he is already nervous. If he shoots for a prize of gold, he goes blind or sees two targets – he is out his mind! His skill has not changed. But the prize divides him. He cares. He thinks more of the winning than the shooting – and the need to win drains him of power.”

So also remember why you are doing what you are doing in the first place and act with the same zeal as if you were just starting.

What is the best piece of advice that you have been given and received?

My father used to say “I love to go to work because if I didn’t love it, I’d still have to go.” He meant it as a joke, but of course there is great truth at the core. Find what you love to do, what you are passionate about and pursue it. It is the single best way to live and the most likely road to success. Enjoy money, but don’t make it your goal. Love and passion bring about desire. At the beginning of all success and achievement is intense desire. It creates its own opportunities and talents. Nothing stops a person who desires to achieve, not even the many hardships and failures the road to success is littered with.

What is your greatest achievement and why?

Having been able to create a life pretty much exactly the way I want it to be. All too many people compromise and rationalize or perhaps never even think out what kind of existence they want to have. My wife Elaine and I have quite consciously and diligently worked at creating our environment. And we now live where and how we want to live. I think neither one of us would change a thing. I consider that to be a great achievement.

Newspapers and Books: Digital or Physical?

Generally I am a paper man. I enjoy using all my senses and as such I like the feel and smell and crackle of paper. But I enjoy the convenience of digital, particularly when traveling and for its efficiency.

Owning a company and working with your wife is truly a great joy. Why did you and your wife Elaine decide to start Sine Qua Non together?

We have both been wine lovers ever since we were youngsters. We simply wanted to see if we could do it and if we might be able to create something special. It really was just a hobby at first, something that was purely for fun.

What was the inspiration behind your desire to create a new name and new label for every wine that you create?

There are several reasons. First off I have always loved to draw and do artwork and so this was a way for me to foist my dilettantery onto people. Second, wine by nature is different every year, no matter what. That is the beauty of wine and I wanted to emphasize this fact by giving each wine its very own, unique identity. Third, since our wines are made in a very home spun, artisanal way, I loved the idea of also making our own labels. I wanted as many things as possible to be made in-house and the fewest things possible hired out. That way there is more of a soul and more of an imprint of us and our personality. Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it. This was a way of autographing my work…the wine in the bottle. Lastly, I get bored easily and I couldn’t even fathom the notion of having a label on which only the last digit of the vintage date changes each year. I would go insane.

Every bottle of wine that you create has it’s own unique personality that changes as the wine ages. Do you design the bottles and labels around your vision of the wine’s personality?

It is always different. At times yes, the wine itself somehow inspires the name and the art.

That was the case with our first release…Queen of Spades Syrah 1994. That wine seemed so extraordinarily dark and yet somehow so majestic and feminine that this name popped into my head. Other times it is derived from some experience in our life. Quite often it is a sort of quixotic love letter to Elaine. And every now then it is a tribute someone or something, even to something we find irritating or obnoxious. A middle finger into the face of the antagonist(s).

What, if any, new technologies are you currently experimenting with that can assist the winemaking process and how do you balance these new innovations to ensure the wines of Sine Qua Non still have a unique personality?

To begin with I am never worried that our wines might lose or not have the “unique” Sine Qua Non personality. I very much operate from intuition and with my senses. So even if I wanted it to – and I don’t – I can’t crawl out of my skin. The wines will always have a SQN style. I am not too big on technology for technology’s sake. The most sophisticated computer can’t replace my nose, my palate and my feel.

I can’t really think of any new meaningful technology that I would love to acquire or work with at this point. I wish someone would come up with versatile labeling machine that could work efficiently with our ever changing label sizes and bottle styles. That way we wouldn’t have to do every bottle by hand. But even that has its benefits. It allows us to keep all of our employees, even during the dead winter months. The most important mechanical machine is a fork lift. Pretty much everything else can be done just like it was 1,000 years ago. But I am not averse to technology. I am quite open to it, but it has to improve quality and not just be convenient. That’s the measure I use.

With four different Estate Vineyards you are able to experiment with different soils and microclimates to produce unique and interesting wines. Is there a favorite wine that you created just by experimentation?

Since grapes are only harvested once a year, wine is only “made” once a year. That makes for a very slow learning process. I was already 34 years old when I started making wine. If I am lucky I have some 40+ chances to get it right in my life time. So working in more / different environments or terroirs enables me to learn more in a shorter period of time. Each vineyard and each block and scion brings about something unique. A color to paint with, as I am fond of saying. The more colors I have, the better chance to paint a great picture.

My job, my responsibility is to create something of pleasure and I need to do anything and everything to achieve that for my customers, for Elaine and for me. I not writing a thesis, I am not teaching a class, I am not running comparative studies. I am making wine. My experiments should not be visible to my customers. They should aid me in a better outcome. So yes, I experiment, but not for experimentations sake, but rather so that forever I somehow improve the quality of our wine(s) and by extension the pleasure for those who drink Sine Qua Non.

Greg Lambrecht: The Innovation Interview

Greg Lambrecht, Inventor, Founder and Board Member of Coravin, LLC shares his thoughts and insights on innovation, technology and the wine industry.

Coravin, LLC, a consumer product company bringing to market a transformational product used to access wine without removing the cork. Mr. Lambrecht is also Founder and Executive Director of Intrinsic Therapeutics, Inc, a venture-backed medical device company focused on addressing the needs of patients with spinal disorders. In addition Mr. Lambrecht is the founder and board member of Viacor, Inc., a start-up medical device company in the Boston area.

Prior to this, Mr. Lambrecht was Vice President of Product Development & Marketing at Stryker, a global orthopedic implant company where he directed the development and launch of numerous successful orthopedic implants. Mr. Lambrecht also held various management positions in product development, marketing, and business development within Pfizer’s Medical Technology Group. The core of his career at Pfizer was directed at implementing a process for inventing and developing technologies that best met the needs of Pfizer’s physician customers worldwide. Mr. Lambrecht holds a Masters of Science in Mechanical Engineering and a Bachelor of Science in Nuclear Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He holds numerous patents in the fields of gynecology, general surgery, cardiology, and orthopedics.

How do you define innovation and what does it mean to you?

Innovation is the creation of useful solutions that address unmet needs. For me, true product innovations meaningfully improve people’s lives while also producing a profit stream that keeps the company afloat. It has been the core of my career and become a way of expressing my creative side and entrepreneurial interests.

What industry needs to embrace innovation and take more risks?

The medical industry, from the med tech world in which I work, to healthcare delivery, to how we insure patients while paying for and regulating innovation, is in dire need of change. We have the highest healthcare costs on the planet, and very few benefits from the extra money we spend relative to countries like Germany, Japan, and many many others. Some of this is driven by poor application of product regulation, others by the structure of state by state private insurance. We are an extremely innovative nation, so I have high hopes that solutions will be forthcoming, but I also hope we as a people are willing to take the inherent risks that will be linked to the required innovation.

What is the best piece of advice that you have been given and received?

My Grandfather spent his career developing weapons systems in Europe and then the US. When I was 12 he pulled me aside and said, “We have enough weapons. You should work in energy or medicine; we will never have enough of either.” He was very right and shaped my career. By the way, I consider wine medicinal, so Coravin still follows his advice.

What is your greatest achievement and why?

I measure my success by the number of people who’s lives I have positively affected. My greatest achievements are the medical products that are being used around the globe to treat patient pain and loss of function. I recently had the odd experience of watching my very first medical product, a simple catheter, being used on my own son. I will never forget that.

Newspapers and Books: Digital or Physical?

Digital! I travel constantly. Having one object that carries all of the books I’m reading, news, my pictures, music, etc. is a life saver. I’ve got to imagine the printed versions will be gone soon enough.

How has your education and experience from The Massachusetts Institute of Technology impacted your career?

MIT gave me the tools to express my creativity through product innovation, as well as the opportunities early in my career that put me in a position to take advantage of those tools. MIT has a great brand respected worldwide. Graduating from MIT got me into positions right out of school that dramatically accelerated my career. I don’t think I would have even been aware of those formative early jobs had I not gone to the Institute.

Enjoying wine without ever pulling the cork is a great idea. What was the inspiration behind the invention and how long did it take you to execute this idea?

I came up with the idea out of necessity. My wife Lee became pregnant with out second child and stopped drinking wine with me. I wanted a great glass of wine with dinner, but didn’t want to commit to the whole bottle. I briefly tried preservation systems, but they didn’t deliver what I was looking for – a way of drinking the glasses of wine I wanted when I wanted without having to worry about the remaining wine in the bottle going bad. I realized the problem was removing the cork. Cork does a great job preserving wine and preventing oxidation. I thought if I could just get the wine out without removing the cork, my problem would be solved. I’d developed some needle based products early in my career, and used that experience to develop the first Coravin prototype. My son is now 14, so it was a while in development. Most of this time was spent experimenting with different needles, gasses, and pressures to get the system to the point where I couldn’t tell the difference between glasses from bottles previously accessed years ago and un-accessed bottles. It was all a fun hobby until I founded the company in 2011. So, it was 12 years as a hobby and 2 years from founding to launch.

With the Coravin™ technology allowing wine owners to pour a glass of wine without opening the cork, how do you ensure that counterfeiters do not reverse engineer the technology to produce counterfeit wine?

I get this question a lot. Coravin only goes one way – it can pour wine from the bottle but can’t put it back. Interestingly, Coravin is now being used for the opposite of counterfeiting – fraud detection. A new company was formed by Master of Wine, Charles Curtis, to authenticate wines using Coravin. There was counterfeiting before Coravin, and there will be counterfeiting after. At least now there is a way to check without having to open the bottle.

Have you run any test pilots with restaurants? If so, what has the reaction been of sommeliers and customers who have tried Coravin™?

We ran tests with both consumers and the trade before we launched. There were three restaurants in New York, one in Boston, one in San Francisco, as well as a wine store and wine bar in San Francisco. Coravin allowed the restaurants and bar to dramatically increase their wine by the glass offerings, and offer finer wines that they wouldn’t otherwise have put at risk. The wine store started a very innovative and successful personalized tasting program pouring 10 wines per region from 15 different wine growing regions, essentially allowing their customers to try before they bought. The consumers in our pilot program were also very positive, telling us that they increased both the quality and variety of wines they drank during the week, even doing wine parings at home. The pilot program was an essential learning experience for Coravin and confirmed the broad interest in the solution we were offering. The restaurants also broke many of the first prototypes, highlighting the need for some critical refinements that now benefit all of our customers.

Are winemakers and the wine industry embracing the Coravin™ System? What has their reaction been to this new invention?

We spent a lot of time meeting with wine makers in California. Our goal was to make sure Coravin integrated into the marvelous culture that surrounds the production, service and consumption of wine. I’ve been really pleased with the very positive reception we have received. Many of the finest wineries in Napa and Sonoma are now using Coravin in their tasting rooms to offer their better wines, and so called library wines, to their visitors. Wine importers, distributors and their sales forces have also been very receptive as it allows them to extend the value of their sample budgets by being able to pour from the same bottles over weeks or longer. We hope to repeat this success abroad when we launch internationally next year.

Corinne Mentzelopoulos: The Innovation Interview

Corinne Mentzelopoulos, Owner & CEO of Château Margaux shares her thoughts on the history Château Margaux, Innovation and the Château Margaux Research & Development Lab.

Having obtained a degree in Classical Literature and a Masters from the Institute of Political Studies in Paris (Sciences–Po) in 1977, Corinne Mentzelopoulos started her career at Havas, a major international advertising company, before continuing as a Financial Controller at Primistères, the company that oversaw the Félix Potin shops.

Following the death of her father in 1980, she took over the management of Château Margaux. Her young age perhaps prevented her from realizing the immense challenge with which she was presented. Surrounded by the celebrated oenologist Emile Peynaud as well as the team from the property, then supervised by Philippe Barré, Corinne Mentzelopoulos set to work, following the momentum started by her father. Nothing in her training had prepared her for the wine industry, but she soon became passionate about Château Margaux.

Corinne Mentzelopoulos has been managing the estate for over thirty years in a spirit of long-term commitment and excellence thanks to a very talented team led by Paul Pontallier. Mother of three children, she was pleased to welcome her daughter Alexandra, into the Château Margaux team in the autumn of 2012.

How do you define innovation and what does it mean to you?

Let’s begin with what innovation is not: it is not the quest for novelty and change at all costs. To me, innovation is first and foremost the discipline of doubt and the will to improve:

The discipline of doubt: any technique can be improved, every skill sharpened. Doubt is a driver for innovation, it forces us to question what we believe to be well established.

The will to improve: we should not be satisfied with our status, however prestigious it may be. We can – we must – always strive to do better, even if, in the case of a 1st Classified Growth, the margin for progress is sometimes very limited

Doubt as a driver, progress as an objective, scientific research as a tool. Innovation does not stem from our dreams, it is not the result of a trend, it is experimental science in action.

What industry needs to embrace innovation and take more risks?

All industries most probably need to embrace innovation as I defined it above. In the only case I am knowledgeable about –viticulture and oenology at Château Margaux– risks are significant as it can sometimes take decades for us to appreciate the consequences of a new gesture or technique. This very high level of risk obviously calls for caution yet it should not restrain innovation but merely moderate ambitions. One has to realize that in our profession innovation should not be appreciated over a period of 1 or 2 years but rather 1 or 2 decades.

What is the best piece of advice that you have been given and received?

It all comes from my father of course. He was first and foremost a great listener as he had a very inquisitive mind and always tried to learn from others. I am not sure I manage to do quite the same but I always have in mind the words of Socrates as he was preparing himself to die: “I know that I know nothing”.

What is your greatest achievement and why?

One can only tell at the very end of one’s life. Everything is so fickle.

Newspapers and Books: Digital or Physical?

Actually I haven’t made up my mind yet, although it seems to many the printed word doesn’t have much future. I read newspapers on my tablet, books on my Kindle, I love all things electronic but I have always been an avid reader of books, and I still am.

Your father André Mentzelopoulos had the vision to buy Chateau Margaux when it was a distressed asset and to invest heavily in turning around the brand without any immediate returns. What were your thoughts when your father first embarked on this project and what are your thoughts today?

I felt something important was happening in the life of the family when he acquired Château Margaux as I realized what a unique asset it was.

Today I feel owning and running Château Margaux is a true privilege that I owe to my father, to the many generations who have led and improved it over the centuries and to my current team.

Thomas Jefferson once famously said “There couldn’t be a better Bordeaux bottle” in reference to a bottle of Chateau Margaux. How do you balance the long and pristine history of the vineyard with new innovations and technologies?

There probably never has been any conflict or contradiction whatsoever between our long history and the constant acquisition of science and technology. Our traditional know-how is actually based on the accumulation of knowledge and full command of technology. From the use of sulphur sticks in the 17th century to today’s most modern technologies, it is experimentation and innovation that have allowed us to build what has today become our tradition.

As the value of Chateau Margaux wines rise, how do you protect the brand and prevent counterfeiting of the highly collectable bottles?

It is a very important issue we have been concerned with for over 20 years now (1989 was the 1st vintage whose every single bottle was laser-etched). Ever since, we have been continuously expanding our range of measures aimed at preventing counterfeiting in order to enable us to authenticate a bottle of Château Margaux with certainty.

But protecting our trademark also implies the building of faithful and loyal relationships with our commercial networks.

When and why did you set up a Research & Development Lab? What new technologies are you currently experimenting with in the lab?

In 1999, we decided to not only create a lab but above all an R&D department as we were convinced at the time – and even more so today! – that brain power would be the greatest source of progress. The aim was –and still is– to question what we believe we know, to organize experimentations that allow us to appreciate the benefits of various techniques, to check the results through micro vinification and , should a fact be established, to set up a new technique.

Numerous trials are in progress:

In the vineyard:
1. We are comparing the pros and cons of organic and biodynamic viticulture.
2. We are also experimenting with some alternative treatments to protect the vines from diseases.
3. We’ve had a large experimentation on clones in progress for the past 20 years.
4. We are trying to better understand and define what the optimum ripening of the grapes is by separately processing grapes picked at different dates.
5. Etc.

In the cellars:
1. We regularly try new grape-treatment equipments: destemmer, pumping, crushing, etc.
2. Wine-making techniques are also questioned: pumping-overs, length of maceration, pressing, etc.
3. A very long-term experimentation has also been set up to compare closures (corks vs. caps); we’ll have to wait at least 20 or 30 years to have reliable results.
4. Etc.

Why have you chosen to experiment with biodynamic wines?

Biodynamic viticulture is an issue that raises passion ranging from enthusiasm to contempt. We felt it necessary to support our judgment with facts rather than beliefs. For the past 6 years, we have been rigorously comparing results from biodynamic, organic and traditional viticulture. Grapes are picked and processed separately and the wines are then bottled and blind-tasted over several years. To this day, the results are not significant.