The more we know, the more we realise how little we know. This seems particularly true in the wine industry.

According to archaeological evidence, humans have been  drinking wine since 7 000 years before Christ. Presses and barrels used to ferment wine in, have been in use as early as 4 000 before Christ. There has evidently also been truth in terroir for a long time if you believe what one Samuel Pepys wrote in 1663 about a so-called French wine, Ho Bryan, ““that hath a good and most particular taste” (the average price today for a bottle of Chateau Haut-Brion wine is approximately R7 000).

Although grapes are a product of Mother Nature and would ferment naturally if you left it to rot, there are many potholes in the road from vineyard to wine: the soil, weather, diseases, pests and infestations, fermentation problems and so forth, and so forth. For this reason viticulturists and winemakers have been improving their viticultural and winemaking techniques through technology over centuries already.

Technology in the wine industry looks different for every stage in the wine value chain and has come a long way since the first wine was made. Progress has been made from clay pots to leading edge technology stainless steel tanks, crushers that stand 3.65 metres tall and crush 20 tons of grapes per day for 18 000 bottles, and drip-free wine bottles.

Moreover, if you look at researchers from the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences‘ innovations in biotechnology, the possibilities are endless. According to them, they have designed a yeast that can significantly improve wine quality and relieve any signs of a hangover.

And I haven’t even mentioned Vinfusion. This machine, designed by consultants of the British technology company Cambridge, can blend a wine right to your taste then and there. At the press of a few buttons you can choose between a light to full bodied, soft to smooth or fruity and sweet to dry wine. No description like hints of strawberries with a nutty aftertaste.

Technology continues to change the landscape of vineyard and wine today, but there still appears to be big opportunities for further innovation.

One of the five global megatrends that PwC identified as defining the business landscape today, and is sure to have an influence on the future of labour, is techological breakthroughs and the mind-boggling advancement in technological innovation. The world seems to be in the middle of a technological revolution with changes and shifts in technology on a scale that we have never seen before.

The role of technology in the South African wine landscape should not be underestimated. Nor the development of effective systems and talented people to manage this technology efficiently. But at the same time we also have to ensure that this expertise and leaders of high calibre are retained – especially considering our journey towards an adaptable, globally competitive and profitable wine and brandy industry (Wise 2015).

In the South African context it not only means more innovative resources to support this demand for improved technology in the greater agricultural landscape, but also involves the transfer of technology to the industry through excellent science communication.

For leaders in the industry, technological breakthroughs mean a mindshift with regard to leadership style. It requires moving away from traditional leadership towards cooperation. It also requires lightning fast reactions to innovations and a sense of exploration. But in essence it involves a revolution in values. For isn’t a leadership style based on values after all the only true management style?

With South Africa currently in a leadership crisis, it is all the more important  for the wine industry to lead with depth, integrity and an open mind. They have to ask themselves: how aware am I of new perspectives and objectives? How do I react thereto? How well do I understand new sources of information and knowledge? And most importantly, in a world of Dassies and grape harvesters, robot aeroplanes and white wine sparging, what inspiring vision do I bring to the industry? What human potential can I unlock?

Today, more than ever before, the wine industry needs leaders who are not only innovative and understand the complexities of technology, by also implement these technologies intuitively to bring about a culture of real human interaction that fulfills the rightful needs of everyone in the industry.

Till next month.

So long.

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