Creating New Wines with the Crowd
Winemakers enlist the help of the crowd to produce new wines, from the vineyard to the table.
Columbia Crest/La Crema Winery, United States
Crowdsourcing has been used to create new flavors and recipes for crisps, cakes, ice creams and beer among other food and drink items. Added to that list in 2014 was wine. With the rise of open innovation and digital technologies, consumers have been given the opportunity to get involved in the entire winemaking process, from start to finish.
Columbia Crest winery launched its Crowdsourced Cabernet project and set aside five acres of reserve grapes in its estate vineyard. Through its interactive website, everyone from casual drinkers to wine connoisseurs were able to vote on every decision that affected the outcome of the finished product, such as irrigation, when to harvest, when to water and how the grapes should be blended.
To help members of the crowd reach their decisions, the website provided weather analysis and season-by-season data. There was also time-lapse camera footage so that participants could watch over the vineyards and even get close-up shots of the grapes. In addition, Columbia Crest’s head winemaker was on hand to answer questions and offer advice.
The crowdsourced project involved 15 tons of grapes which were transformed into 40 barrels of wine. At the time of writing this article, the beverage is being aged in the winery’s cellars. The crowd’s efforts will result in the production of 1,000 bottles, which will be sold online in the US and in Columbia Crest’s tasting room in Paterson, Washington. And it’s not a one-off, because a 2015 vintage is also being crowdsourced.
Other wine producers and sellers are also looking to the crowd for help with their wines. Online wine retailer Naked Wines crowdsources its members to invest small dollar amounts in winemakers for which they receive discounts on the finished wines. Meanwhile in the UK, supermarket chain Tesco organized wine tasting sessions so that it could get an idea of the words to use to describe the wines on its shelves to consumers.
Crowdsourcing Pinot Noir
Within a few days of Columbia Crest launching its 2014 initiative, La Crema Winery from Sonoma Valley announced its Virtual Vintner project, “which will take participants on an interactive multi-step winemaking journey, culminating in the first ever community-created Pinot Noir or Chardonnay.”
Participants decided the varietal, the appellation and the specific vineyard for cultivating the grapes. They also had an input in the name of the wine and its label design. The crowd opted for Pinot Noir, the Russian River Valley appellation and the Laughlin vineyard. Their wine is due to go on sale in the fall of 2015.
The amount of wine being produced by the crowd is not huge, and many bottles will most likely be bought by those who are taking part. However, the purpose of the crowdsourced winemaking projects is more than just creating a new wine. It is to raise brand awareness and to increase digital interactions with consumers.
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