The ancient craft of wine making conjures romantic notions of hand-picked vines, and bare feet crushing grapes. However, wine production today is a thoroughly high-tech affair. Degree programs in viticulture and oenology, from Cornell University to UC Davis, reflect advances in the industry. Professors and courses there now focus on topics like “environmental control, and modified atmospheres,” “the genetic engineering of industrial microorganisms,” or “analytical instrumentation,” to name a few.
What wine makers are going after with applied technology and science is a more profitable piece of an already sizable market. Consumers spent $38 billion on U.S.-made wines alone in 2015 according to the annual Wine Industry Metrics report by Wines & Vines Analytics. Using tech and science to gain every possible advantage can help producers keep their costs and prices down, their environmental footprint small, and their wines as high-quality as possible. More and better data, if analyzed properly, can also help wineries cope with extreme weather, from droughts to floods.