Wine Grenade to 'revolutionise' wine industry

Wine Grenade chief executive and co-founder Hamish Elmslie sees a wide market for their product nationally and ...
CHRIS SKELTON/FAIRFAX NZ

Wine Grenade chief executive and co-founder Hamish Elmslie sees a wide market for their product nationally and internationally.

An explosive new invention is set to "revolutionise" the wine industry, but some winemakers say they would rather stick to tradition.

The handheld device - dubbed the Wine Grenade - is designed accelerate the ageing process of wine so that vintages can reach the table faster.

It promises to cut back the two-year ageing wait  to just six months and will also save tens of thousands of dollars by eliminating the cost of shipping barrels from overseas and other production costs.

Wine Grenade is the brainchild of five Auckland University students - Hamish Elmslie, Jonathan Boswell, Philip Cockrell, Jorg Kampschreur and Mike Moore- who completed their Masters of Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship.

In 2014, the group won the Spark $100k Challenge - the university's Dragon's Den-style business competition which helped them get their project off the ground.

Elmslie said Wine Grenade challenged traditional ways of ageing wine by introducing oxygen into wine faster.

"There is two ways that winemakers can mature wines - the traditional way is through the use of the oak barrels, but the barrels themselves are really expensive and it can take a really lengthy time to mature a wine," he said.

"They can also use micro-oxygenation systems, but those carry a really high up-front cost. The difference with wine grenade is that it's a simple handheld device which puts the process of micro-oxygenation within reach of all winemakers by removing the cost and complexity that exists today."

It also costs a lot less than other systems similar to the Wine Grenade which can set vitners back tens of thousands of dollars. Elmslie would not disclose the cost of his invention.

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"There are existing micro-oxygenation machines on the market but each of them carry a really at times prohibitively high up-front cost for the equipment," he said.

"Academic studies have shown that the cost of ageing wine in a barrel is in the dollars-per-litre and by comparison the Wine Grenade will cost just cents-per-litre."

The device was designed to work only in tanks, but there was potential for the technology to be amended to apply to barrels, Elmslie said.

The device is being trialed at Hawke's Bay winery Sacred Hill with 11,000 litres of merlot and 11,000 litres of pinot noir.

The wine is halfway through the 10-week trial and senior winemaker Tony Bish said he was impressed with the development so far. However, it is unclear how, or if, the flavour profile would change.

The wine grenade was a "fantastic idea" that had the potential to revolutionise the wine ageing process, he said.

He was unsure of how it would affect production costs, Bish said.

Selaks winemaker Brett Fullerton believed the wine grenade could benefit smaller wineries who could not afford larger micro-oxygenation systems. 

Fullerton was interested in the outcome of the trial, but said he would need to know more before trialing it in his winery.

"You can't just put a whole heap of oxygen in there at once and expect to get the same effect as putting a little bit in over a whole year," he said.

"It's got it's place, but what you are hoping for is you still achieve the same result in the short-term. These things take time, however you can speed the process up within reason."

Mt Difficulty winemaker and general manager Matt Dicey said he preferred sticking to the traditional method of ageing wine in barrels, as it gave him a chance to focus on the flavour profiles from the different vineyards.

This process might remove some of the barrel costs - which can top $1500 each - but winemakers selling wine for $25 a bottle would be less likely to use the Wine Grenade, he said.

"If the wine is a premium one, traditional winemaking can't be beaten, but if it's for value purpose, then absolutely use it."

However, he believed it would change the way the wine aged, Dicey said.

"For us you can't replicate what we do in the barrels. Barrell versus tank - you are never going to get the same response."

Marlborough-based Nautilus winemaker and winery manager Clive Jones said while some winemakers would welcome the device, he had noticed a shift back to more traditional techniques.

Elmslie is heading overseas in two weeks to showcase the device to winemakers in markets where he sees the biggest demand - Bordeaux and California.

 - Sunday Star Times

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