Growing & Winemaking


How Wineries Take Advantage of Big Data (or Any Data)

May 2018
by Andy Starr

Are the winemaking and sales decisions in your winery data-driven? Are all of your data sources well integrated into one system? Ask the question of some winery owners, and you may get these responses:

• "I will use data to run my winery once a really well-known Napa Valley winemaker does it and gets a98-point score. It's the wine industry, where everyone strives to be the first one to be the second one."

•"My winery prides itself on making wine exactly the way they did in France in the 18th century. I evenhave my tasting room staff wear Les Miserables costumes at work, and on weekends when we have bigcrowds, I make them sell their teeth just like Fantine did. The tourists love it!"

• "Data analysis is what the 'big guys' do, but not here. We're just farmers."

• "Wine is an art."

True, I invented the quotations above, but they're not as far-fetched as you might think. Data is generated at every step in the winemaking process, from soil moisture to vineyard sampling to weight tags to all steps of winemaking to case goods to sales to consumer data. We are buried in data, yet we often make important decisions on anecdotes and "gut instinct." Everyone has a story of an owner saying more or less, "I love our Gold Digger's Reserve, named after my last three wives. Sure, we only sell 173 cases every year, but let's keep making 1,000 cases."

Marshall Graves is a vice president and wine industry specialist at Bank of Marin. He encourages wineries to "go beyond using your data set to simply resell to existing customers. Aggregate and examine your data to obtain a precise understanding of what your club members enjoy beyond wine."

Graves suggests accomplishing this by collaborating with companies that specialize in data analytics and social physics. "Done well, this will improve wine club retention and ultimately result in wineries having a more efficient and cost-effective marketing strategy." He added that "each of the top five wine-producing states also have established technology hubs. Those who engage in conversation with their tech community will become agents of change vs. being the disrupted."

We all know we need to use data better, but turning it into something that objectively drives decision-making is a challenge for nearly everyone. I interviewed representatives of two wineries and their data vendors who are successfully integrating and using data in their everyday operations.



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