First, let’s all agree: being a winemaker isn’t a walk in the park.
It’s a profession that requires a nuanced balance of art and science, tenderness and grit, lengthy independent work, and highly social engagements. From the cellar’s depths to the head of the table at a winemaker dinner, the responsibilities are vast and diverse.
That being said, for the sake of this piece, we’re focusing on the actual winemaking workflow in the cellar and the fundamentals that define you and your role. There are a few “hot buttons” or frustrations that all winemakers experience from time to time. Our internal team of winemakers has endured them. Our clients have endured them.
We can almost guarantee you’ll relate to most if not all of this pressure point list. So let’s get into it!
1. Where’s that barrel?
We’ve all been there. Walking around the cellar, trying to find a specific barrel that is not where it should be. Warehouse A, Row 5, Rack 4, Position 8…. Nope. Nowhere to be found. It’s not with the rest of the lot.
Now what? Do you track down the last cellar worker that touched that lot? Who was that person? Once you figure that out, they’re off today. So now it’s up to you to spend an hour or two scouring through the barrel room to find it.
Start with a better location management system and employ software that manages this for you. It not only improves accuracy but helps with accountability, too, knowing who engaged with the lot most recently, along with the details of that activity.
Your team should consider using vessel stickers with QR codes on them to validate each barrel during the activity! Of course, misplacing barrels will still happen, but the process of tracking them down should be much faster.
2. What’s that smell?
A great winemaker leads with their nose, but sometimes even the best need numbers to validate what their nose is telling them.
A winemaker may pick up an off-aroma on a ferment. What’s that smell? Is that a volatile compound associated with H2S? VA? Or something else?
Well, now you better check the numbers.
But wait, when was the last panel run? Where’s that ETS report? What’s the latest Brix? When was the last cap management action done? Tracking down the recent numbers and activity can be tedious, especially when time is of the essence.
Keep a real-time digital record of all analytical readings and daily ferment activities. Even import analyses directly from the 3rd party labs you use!
That way, with the right production software, that information can be in your back pocket and take just a few seconds to reference. Just scan the tank, view the lot, and check those numbers and history. Boom – done.
3. Wait, THAT much fruit is coming in today?
It happens all the time.
Crop estimates were low, and now a few fruit lots are coming in hot and heavy. But, unfortunately, your team isn’t prepared. You may or may not have space, and if you do, the extra tanks or bins may not yet be sanitized.
When will the current lots be pressed off to open up more space? Will you have that space soon?
Use a system or software that helps visualize tank and fermentor availability so you can quickly allocate or re-allocate vessels to specific lots. Plan incoming fruit far in advance to show that a vessel should be filled in the future. That way, you can stress less and be better prepared for these inevitable events.
4. Are we really out of that product?
Improper planning plagues us all from time to time, but it can be a real setback in winemaking.
When bottling schedules are established in advance, the necessary supplies must be accounted for ahead of time. From additives to filter pads to packaging supplies, running out of these last minute is not only a burden but an additional cost center (paying a premium for last-minute orders).
Find a digital solution that manages supply inventory for you and also automatically removes product inventory as you use or consume it. That way, you always know your real-time inventory level and can re-order on schedule.
Also, make sure you run appropriate reports in advance of bottling season to ensure you have all the products you need and have anticipated volumes.
5. Where’s that information?
Imagine this scenario: Harvest is nearly complete. You’ve made it through the crazy season in (nearly) one piece.
Now, finance and your boss are knocking on your door needing all sorts of information such as exact weights for every lot of fruit, final yields, current inventory, additional expenses incurred, etc.
Does this have you struggling?
Wine isn’t made behind a desk, yet winemakers spend far too much time wrestling with outdated spreadsheets and stacks of paper and notebooks to get to this information in a timely fashion.
Simplify and streamline. Get off paper and get on a record-keeping system that is easy to maintain, even during the craziness of harvest. Empower your team to enter data themselves, or better yet, set them up with digital work orders. Finally, give yourself peace of mind that when the last ferment is pressed off, the heavy harvest workload is done.
Here at InnoVint, we love providing wineries with solutions and software that solves real problems for real winemakers. The fact our solution eases the pain of all 5 of these points brings us joy. If we can contribute to your satisfaction and happiness as a winemaker, giving you more time to focus on wine quality (or hit that vacation earlier!), we’re doing something right.