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Innovation in an 8000 year old profession?

October 16th, 2010 by admin Leave a reply »

How do we identify Innovation in one of the world’s oldest professions?  No, not THAT profession, the other oldest profession: the wine-making profession. I’ve long had a love-affair with wine, not just because of it’s social lubricant qualities and enjoyment on the palette, but also because the process of wine-making is itself a CREATIVE endeavor, honed over 8000 years into both a craft and an enormous industry at the same time.

I am the vine, you are the branches (John 15)

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Wine-making starts with selection & planting of a  terroire and vines. The soil that the vine is placed in is critical to the fruit it will produce.  The vine has to be trained, stressed, pruned, watered – nurtured just right.  The weather, over which the vintner has little control, dictates the region that one might choose to do this in. For thousands of years the wine-maker (typically trained by family over generations) would determine by touch, taste, smell, if the grapes on the vine were ripe for the picking. Each “varietal” of wine has to be harvested: de-stemmed, crushed, re-crushed, then  mixed/combined with the juice from other grapes (most wines are not 100% of one varietal), and finally set away in barrels to ferment and age.  All the decisions involved in each of these steps involve a certain creative/artistic approach. No two seasons or harvests (vintage) are the same, no two sets of produce are the same. By the time the wine is bottled and labeled with a branding message, the wine has gone through a considerable number of creative steps.  This is an annual form of creative problem solving process hat the wine-maker goes through each year: “in what way can I maximize the variables to produce the most optimal yield, quality and product for each vintage?”. The art of wine-making is a great example of the creative process at work…over the past 8000 years.

The quintessential Entrepreneurs

By the same token I have always found the wine-maker to be the perfect example of American entrepreneur in action. Part creator, part business-man, part risk-taker.  A successful winery involves a blend of art, science and management.

This week in class at UC Berkeley my students in “Innovation, Creativity & the Entrepreneur” class (ICE, as it is fondly known), were introduced to Steve Mirassou, founder of Steven Kent Winery (Livermore, CA).  Steve, who is as passionate about wine as I’d imagine his forefathers were, is a direct lineage of the OLDEST wine family in the United States – he is a 6th generation in the wine business. His great-great-great grandfather started one of the earliest vineyards in the US, which later became the Mirassou Family Vineyards in the San Jose area (sold to Gallo). Steve started his own winery in Livermore in the 1992 with his father.  Today the winery produces some ~30,000 cases of wine per year and offers 2 wine clubs (“direct to consumer” model), many varietals, and just launched a new high-end label called Lineage. Steve is a highly unique individual – a blend of business talent, artistic taste and PASSION for what he does for a living (we all want that!).  He lives and breathes wine.  Here’s a clip of Steven which is part of a video I took for my Creativity class:

Also joining Steve was another entrepreneur, Alyssa Rapp, founder of BottleNotes - a leading online start-up in the

AJR New Headshot

area of wine-making. Alyssa’s enthusiasm for wine comes out in a different form from Steven. She loves educating the public about wine growing, tasting and collecting.  Bottlenotes offers interesting new approaches to wine, using a unique mix of events, online information, social media, email marketing and more.  Alyssa spoke to our class about innovations, particularly in marketing and online media, in the industry over the past decade, but she also cautioned that the regulation of the industry by the government and the pressure on the industry by lobbyists is something is a constant check-and-balance to potential creativity and innovation.

Innovation in the wine industry

A key question that came up in discussions with Steve and Alyssa was the nature of innovation in an somewhat slow-growing and notoriously stodgy industry.  The wine business in the US and abroad has seen considerable consolidation in the past 25 years. Today, 80% of wine production in the US is owned by a small number of huge wineries.  Are these large players innovating or simply consolidating? Are mid and smaller wineries showing signs of innovation or creativity?

The question I pose here:  based on examples like BottleNotes, Steven Kent and others – is the wine industry showing signs of innovation in the past 5 years…or is it simply evolving?  I’d like to hear reader’s thoughts and in my next post will share some of my own thoughts on the topic.

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29 comments

  1. Alex Chung says:

    The wine boom in Hong Kong
    (http://www.economist.com/node/17095738?story_id=17095738)

    Despite of global recession, Hong Kong’s wine imports increased by 41% to 4 billions HK dollars between 2008 and 2009. Why? Not because stock traders wanting to drown their sorrows with alcohol but because Hong Kong government cut the heavy sales tax on wine to zero.

    “David Elswood, the top wine man at Christie’s, says that Hong Kong has become more important than New York and London combined.”

  2. Joaquin Llosa says:

    I think it is more innovation than simply evolving. The wine industry is maturing and has become a very competitive business. The desire to expand markets and become more recognize has lead wine industrial clusters to search for innovation and competitive advantages in order to offer consumers a greater value, either by means of lower prices or by providing greater benefits and service that justifies higher prices. I think habits, customs and tastes preferences change over time, and like many other business, the wine makers has been seen in the necessity to innovate to fulfill customer’s demands. These innovations included; new product development, production processes improvement, distribution networks, technical innovation and branding, marketing, among others.

  3. My impression is that the bag-in-box packaging has changed wine drinking habits in Sweden. Since there is a government monopoly on alcohol retailing in Sweden, there is a reliable source of sales statistics (http://www.systembolaget.se/Applikationer/Knappar/OmSystembolaget/Statistik/bib.htm) and it shows that from 2000 to 2009, total wine sales increased by 62 million litres from 105 million to 167 million. The volume of bag-in-box wine increased by 73 million and the proportion of bag-in-box wine went from 18% to 55%.

    I think the increased adoption of the bag-in-box has lead to more continental drinking habits, i.e. taking a glass of wine for dinner every day, instead of gulping down a bottle or two in the weekend (some people probably do both). The fact that the wine remains drinkable for a couple of weeks in the bag-in-box is probably an important reason why Swedish consumers increasingly choose it before the glass bottle. As a cheaper packaging than the glass bottle, it is often used by low end wines. This can probably be regarded as a barrier for high-end wineries to use the packaging, as the bag-in-box can harm the brand by signalling “low end”.

  4. Sebastian Coman says:

    I am a wine aficionado and have been spoilt by the high quality wines available in Europe over the years. Yes, I do feel that, on the whole, Spanish and French reds still outperform the “New World” wines. For whites I also feel that the French, Austrian and German wines are noticeably better, again, on the whole. Sorry, new world. However, there are a few outstanding wines being produced in California, South Africa and Australia – that just knock my socks off! So, I’m tremendously happy to see this progress.

    In Spain, one can get a “decent” bottle of red for under $14. However, in the US that’s pretty much impossible. I can only find wines of comparable quality up in the tasting rooms in Sonoma Valley. The shelves of the supermarkets in SF are a sheer chaos! Neither have I come across any helpful wine merchants yet (any suggestions are welcome). So I only feel comfortable buying directly from the wineries I trust and where I have done a tasting. There are some wonderful winebars in the city though, a concept that would definitely work back in Europe!

    By the way, why is it that a mediocre bottle of imported wine sells for less than a low end bottle of Californian red?

    Here’s a little investment idea for the patient investor: buying a high volume of high-end red wines (any appellation, any grapes, preferably notorious brands and exceptional vintages), ageing them in perfect conditions, wait for 5-15 years (depending on market and type of wine) … then sell to merchants that export to Asia (or export yourself). Why? There is a scarce supply of top-quality wine in the world. You can therefore command a premium price.

    @ Fredrik: Frankly, the increase in bag-in-box wines in Sweden disturbs me. Wine should not be positioned in that way, nor should it target the “heavy-drinker” segment. It seems that this the beginning of a binge drinking culture spiraling out of control. For years the UK has been fighting the social problems caused by binge drinking, ineffectively.

    @ Alex: I don’t have the figures, but mainland China is importing obscene amounts of “cream of the crop” highly-branded French Bordeaux wines (Chateau Neuf du Pape, and alike). The wine culture is really kicking-off there. However, I have my doubts on how well-developed their palette is… transporting containers in changing temperatures, with radical movements and vibrations can seriously harm aged Bordeaux. Half of the stuff is bound to arrive in a dodgy state. But who cares?! They can’t taste the difference anyway. It seems they just like it for the show.

  5. Kimra McPherson says:

    I find the “wine education” area a particularly interesting one for innovation. I didn’t know about BottleNotes before class, but I’m curious to learn more about it and see Alyssa’s take on how to introduce people to wine. I know there’s at least one effort going on among Haas students to make the barriers to learning about wine lower for new wine drinkers, and I’ve seen other such efforts (see: Wine That Loves). My problem with such efforts in the past has been that they struggle to bridge the gap between the truly beginner wine drinkers and those who have learned a little but aren’t yet sure if they want to learn a LOT. For example, with Wine that Loves, it’s nice to know that I like Wine That Loves Pizza … but I don’t know what Wine That Loves Pizza *is* if I happen to find myself in a store that doesn’t sell it and want to buy something similar.

    The discussions of the new international markets for wine got me wondering how people around the globe are introducing wine to new generations and new market segments. Are they using traditional wine language of varietals and regions? Metaphors? Food pairings? Taste profiles? I’d be curious to know what strategies are being used in other places and if any of them could work in the United States.

  6. Wesley Chen says:

    I feel that Steve’s innovation is not in his wine-making skills, but in marketing his wine. He prides his wine as the longest wine making family in America, so the wine making process is pretty much the best there is. However, as the wine market and the economy changes, he thought up new ways to make the wine more demanded and more attainable while keeping its traditional values.
    In almost the same way, Alyssa innovates in making wine more approachable to those that previously would be too intimidated to buy wine. She is attempting to reach into an untapped market for wine. In this sense, her strategy makes her innovative in the wine industry.

  7. Andy Hsieh says:

    I find it interesting that the Steven Kent Winery emphasizes on the HISTORY, as well as INNOVATIVE ways of improving distribution channels. At first glance, I thought the emphasis on history implies that the company is rigid, unwilling to change, and is contained within traditions. But after this case, it’s possible to both pursuit tradition (a very non-innovative term) in one dimension, while being innovative on the other.

  8. Jan Veira says:

    Innovation of Steven Kent Vinery in US vs. Europe Context

    For me it was very interesting to see what Steven emphasizes about his winery. Many of the elements he emphasizes (history of the family, wine from a small region, trying to get the best out of this region, great experience for people coming to the winery, not producing for the mass market but trying to do the best possible wine in that region and finding the customers that like it, strong ties to customers, listening to customers – not being arrogant to them, focus on being local) is what for me makes a good, small European vinery. I do not know French wineries, but I know German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese wineries very well, and all these characteristics are what they do (and have been doing since maybe 300 years).

    Steven would not be recognized as being very innovative if he would have opened his winery in Europe, but he for sure is in California. One of the things I hate about California wine is the lack of these exact attributes I quotes above. I come from a wine region in Europe and I really miss the wineries there which have been introduced to me by my parents and which have been catering to our family for more than 3 generations now. Seeing what Steven does is great, and I am excited to got to his place.

    The interesting learning for me in the ICE context is, that it obviously matters where you are, if you want to innovate. Steven is in my eyes innovative, because he is in California and he brings the European way to do high quality wine in a small winery to California. It would be interesting to see if someone has ideas for other examples that are based on the same observation – that location matters for the determination whether s.th. is truly innovative.

    I am wondering, does this only hold for location only or does it also hold for time. Might it be that if I do a certain thing today it is innovative, if I do it in 10 years it is not innovative, but if my son does it again in 30 years its again innovative ?

    One final note: I believe the way Steven communicates with his customers via new media (like Facebook, Twitter, Blogs) is innovative for both, California and good old Europe.

  9. Buzz Bonneau says:

    Although its easy to say the big guys are not innovating by consolidating the industry, in my experience this is not the case. Gallo is innovative in its distribution methods and channels. They have conceived of many new distribution models, and the use innovative ways to incentivize their sales team – giving away monthly trips fishing, skiing etc to those who not only sell the most, but achieve other goals such as new stores, new product-mixes, etc. They have leadership development programs and seem to encourage creativity, even if its more focused on the business model than the wine itself.

  10. Tapan Patel says:

    Hi Steve,

    I liked the presentation in terms of what you are doing to spread the wine-culture that you spoke of. I understand that you are using technology to spread the culture of wine, but what I was wondering about was what you are doing in terms of using technology to optimize the wine itself.

    I sat in on a presentation today by Fruition Sciences, which is a company that takes a look at the impact of water consumption by the vines on the end product-the wine. What they do is monitor the water being consumed by individual vines by using sensors and subsequently determine what impact say more and or less water is having on the quality of the grapes that go into the fermentation process.

    In light of this, I was wondering what you do in terms of technological innovation to optimize certain aspects of the grapes/wine.

  11. Peter Kwan says:

    I was a wine club member at Ledson in Sonoma and they employed a lot of the same ideas that Steven Kent does. This included doing barrel tastings for members-only, offering certain vintage wines to members-only, and putting on special events that emphasized the quality of the wines and grapes that they use (including one that displayed Porsches throughout the grounds!). Ledson isn’t sold in any restaurants, save for a single location affiliated with the winery, and they try to keep their exposure to a minimum (opposite of the large Gallos/Mondavis of the world).

    However, one area I didn’t see too much innovation in, or at least it wasn’t emphasized, is how the wine was made. Steven Kent uses equipment and technology advances, but it is unclear whether Ledson does the same. This could be an area that they explore, and it would be interesting to see if these similar wineries have an “epiphany” or collective conscienceness on new ways to market their wines (pairings, special events, etc.)

  12. Rahul Barwani says:

    Personally I feel like the majority of innovation in the wine industry comes in the container and image. When I go to the store to select a bottle of wine, there are a few good looking bottles that just catch my eye and irk my curiosity. Do I normally end up buying them? Yes given the right price. In terms of the cheap wine segment, I think that if a company puts out mediocre quality wine in a fancy looking bottle with a clever, foreign name, they are likely to get consumers because the main people purchasing these types of bottles are those customers who know nothing about wine.

    On a larger scale, I think recently we have seen a lot of innovation around the container. In the past, bottle and cork was all you got, but now with synthetic corks and screw-offs to boxed and bagged wine, we are seeing a huge shift in the way the product is delivered. Though the wine industry is one of the oldest in the world, there are always ways to innovate a product.

  13. Kate Zimmermann says:

    It seems like innovations in the wine industry are more refinements to, rather than redefinitions of, the craft. With 6000 years of history, there are only so many new ways to make, sell or consume wine, before it becomes something else entirely. Although many companies today are experimenting with new branding, production technology, ingredients, packaging, etc… the final goal (a decent bottle of wine) has remained relatively constant – and with good reason!

  14. Siddhi says:

    There is a lot of innovation in the way that we consume information about wine. For example, check out this list on Mashable about wine applications for the iphone: http://mashable.com/2009/11/06/iphone-apps-wine/

    And this is a list of the best, which means that there are enough apps out there to require someone to filter the sea of options. Lots of interesting ways to interact with otherwise hard to internalize information!

  15. Kourosh Bakhtvar says:

    I wanted to comment on the wine industry dynamics. As someone who has no background at all in wine (production or consumption) my opinion is probably representative of a very ‘slim’ part of the market.

    However as someone who has no experience, if I were to ask someone about their preference in wine, I would seek advice from a much older person. This comes with the preconception that most people who drink wine are of the older, sophisticated audience. So naturally when I heard about the Steven Kent winery and its emphasis on lineage, I could see how it is such a huge competitive advantage. I would naturally tend to ask for advice from an older person on wine, like I would lean toward a younger person for advice in technology. So the fact that Steven Kent is deriving it’s wine creations from 6 generations of wine makers makes me want to trust it more; with 6 generations of experience in an industry that seems to be all about trying different permutations, they must know how to make a great wine.

  16. Kandra Chan says:

    I think one of the areas where Steven Kent winery is most innovative is their use of the social media, especially in targeting the millennial generation. The fundamentals of wine making may not have changed significantly, but Steven Kent’s marketing approach is unique. The use of twitter, facebook, and extensive wine club exclusive membership for tastings and feedback speaks to a change in marketing to a different consumer group – at 70M+ millennial in the US market. Gen Y is comfortable with many social media types, and often provides their feedback voluntarily through blogs and post. By connecting directly with the Gen Y in their social media element, Steven Kent Winery is making a unique outreach opportunity.

    Other wineries and associated organization have also tapped into this market – de-mystifying the wine buying experience for Gen Y through social media. For example, Gary Vaynerchuck has posts a daily video blog, Wine Library TV, that is “changing the wine world,” by offering an unpretentious approach to an historically stuffy subject. He displays extreme emotion, passion, and talks candidly to his viewers through his daily blog. His daily blog has reached such fame that he’s appeared as a wine expert, on shows including Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Ellen Degeneres Show, and Mad Money with Jim Cramer. By starting from a daily video blog to target the new millennial audience, Gary Vaynerchuck exemplifies another innovative marketing tactic, online presence and social media, that is rapidly changing the wine industry.

  17. Joel Vincent says:

    As a chemical engineer, I think there is room for much innovation in the way wine is made. Wine making is one of the few modern processes that remains shrouded in mysticism. Wine makers (including Kent) tend to think of wine in artistic terms, instead of scientific terms.

    And yet, at its core wine making is simply a chemical (and biological) process. All of the aspects of taste are determined by chemical composition. There is no reason to think that wine making can’t be improved dramatically by chemical engineering methods. For example, why couldn’t wine be aged synthetically? Think of how much money it would save. Sure it might be difficult, but I imagine it is entirely possible.

    If wine was actually about taste and cost, innovations like these would be plentiful. Yet, I think wine drinking is as much about image and nostalgia as it is about taste and cost. In fact, I think people want to pay a lot for wine (I mean is a $100 bottle really twice as good as a $50 bottle?).

    I am not going to argue that this is a bad thing. If people place value in of a process that is ancient, that is their prerogative. Nevertheless, we cannot expect true innovation in the way wine is made until wine drinkers decide that what they really care about is drinking good wine at a low price. Maybe that will be in another 8000 years.

  18. Rob B says:

    I was supprised by the differnet states laws affecting the sale of wines across state borders. I imagine this could push people to innovate and develop new strategies as the rules change. Which exemplifies that the age of an industry is not a barrier to innovation as the world is constantly evolving so new opportunites are cosntantly opening while others are being shut off.

  19. Florian Strasser says:

    I think it is remarkable how a small winery uses innovation to remain successful in a competitive industry. While I don’t think that Steven is particularly innovative in the measures he chooses (e.g., wine clubs and social media is being used widely in the industry), he is very innovative in using them (exclusive wines for members), and he is especially innovative in his approach to organize his winery. The non-patriarchal approach to a family-style winery is something new (to me) and I believe the innovative and collaborative organization is the key source of his success and enables him to adapt innovation quickly.

    Steven’s talk about his winery was to a great extend highlighting the family’s history in the wine business. I thought this would be part of his “value proposition” to the general public. I looked at his website and could not find that truly unique element of his winery at all. I believe he is missing out a great differentiation opportunity as he could use the family history to make his website more personal and engage new and existing customers by sharing the family story.

  20. Jon Holcomb says:

    I think there Steve has an opportunity to bring an innovative solution to marketing his wine. One of the challenges most wineries face is communicating with a younger audience (just over 21). His focus on social media is a step in the right direction, but there is definitely room for improvement. When people think of wine, what is commonly associated with it? It’s more of a civilized drink that accompanies formal occasions or gatherings. How often do these occur? This depends greatly on the demographic you’re interested in, but it is not commonplace for the new drinkers.

    I think wine will really take off when it is one of the beverages that the younger generation of drinkers is introduced to early on. It’s always dangerous working with this particular segment, since it’s illegal to market specifically to anyone under 21, but this is where the growth is. This market segment needs to associate wine with their social activities. Without any disruption in this sector and young consumer alcohol beverages, the industry is only evolving, not innovating.

  21. Jessica Orr says:

    Personally, I don’t think that wine making has a lot of room for innovation. It’s an old product based and arguably priced on craftsmanship that has been established over the centuries. Most wine is produced in the same way, leaving little room to recombine things in a new way that customers will find useful and desirable (our innovation definition).

    I agree with the above comments that marketing and packaging provide the wine industry with areas for innovation, but the product has been the same for centuries and seems like it will stay that way for a few more.

  22. Prateek Kakirwar says:

    I think the wine industry has shown signs of innovation in the past 5 years, if not the wine making process, at least in the way wine is being packaged and delivered to the consumers. In earlier days, wine bottles were just sold in glass bottles sealed with bark of the cork trees to protect the contents of the bottles. However, over the last 10 years, we have seen a big change in the way wine bottles are being packaged.

    Now, we have a gamut of wine bottles available in different sizes, shapes, labels and designs. I think, we have witnessed these changes because the consumers are more informed and have expectations from the wine manufactures they are buying from. No longer is the package just to protect the contents of the wine bottle, the package now must provide clear and precise information about the wine, so the consumer gets the right wine he/she is looking for and it should be available in different sizes and shapes to appeal to the needs and convenience of the end consumers.

  23. Sean Dee says:

    While I agree with Joel’s take on chemical engineering, I think the chemistry of wine is still unearthing the mysteries of wine(http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703794104575546430039944898.html). Wine is a very complex chemical mixture, and the use of Mass Spec to try to ID compounds and match them to flavors is still developing, as well as understanding the effect of all the variables (sugar content, alcohol content, pH, temperature, time, skin to juice ratio, etc). Another example is the use of a screw cap instead of a cork. A cork is very important for wine aging because it helps moderate the diffusion of oxygen into the wine as it ages, (aka letting the wine breathe as it ages). Naturally wines that doesn’t age (white, or as Steven pointed out, reds that are consumed in in 5-7 years after bottling) simply don’t need cork. What science still debates however is if the oxygen required for aging comes from outside the bottle and through the cork, or from inside the cork. I believe the research field for wine making is relative young (especially compared to the 6000 years the industry has been around).

    I remember seeing a story on 20/20 once about synthetic diamonds. Not CZ, but real diamonds that are grown in labs with high pressure/temperature systems, or microwave chemical vapor deposition. Many times these diamond are cheaper, higher quality in terms of clarity and color, and have less waste in the cutting process. My mother then said she would NEVER want a synthetic diamond, because the geological process of making a diamond represents something very important that is part of the lure/romance of engagement rings. I think wine is slightly similar, where the more synthetic it becomes, the more stigma will be attached to synthetically aged wines, which could be chemically identical to natural aged wines, as having less “soul”.

  24. zaahir syed says:

    i believe innovation is definitely a clear necessity to any industry that has existed for such a long period of time. with 8,000 years of history, comes 8,000 years of competition, product variation, marketing shifts, pricing, customer growth, distribution migration, bottling customization, etc. and although the innovation a winery may embrace may not be as disruptive as innovations in other industries (e.g. semiconductors, automobiles, etc.) they are, or should be, innovative enough to differentiate one wine from another. i think the key thing to note is that this is still innovation and definitely not evolution. i view evolution as a shift in the overall market standards of a particular industry, whereas innovation is relative to a particular company.

    i believe everyone can agree that frank franzia has been one of these innovators, but i’d be interested in understanding the historical innovators from earlier eras, like pre and post prohibition. it’s clearly evident that the past 5 years have allowed for visibility of the innovations that have occurred in the wine industry, but i believe that’s short-sighted, and that innovation must have occurred throughout the 8,000 years.

  25. Kieren Patel says:

    After reading the SK case and listening to both speakers, my initial impression was that these two firms represent evolution in business practices rather than break through innovation. Perhaps changes in branding and bottling seem innovative in the context of an old, rigid and historically stratified industry such as wine-making but core tenets of wine making process really have not changed (or at least it appears that way). That is NOT to say that it is not creative.

    I question whether the approaches taken by SK and bottlenotes are really just utilization of existing tech trends, marrying wine drinking/wine making with social networking platforms etc … (i.e people using an iphone app Daily Sip vs. picking up the magazine Wine Spectator for recommendations). This appears to me to be evolution of the industry – adapting to current business environment. While it does represent a certain degree of novelty, does it represent true innovation within the context of 8000 years of history? Does it represent innovation as compared to product innovation in other spaces? It’s not apparent to me that this is true.

    Not withstanding a background and bias for biochemistry/tech, I would think the ripest place for innovation will come in actual methods of production. Applications of technologies with respect to genetic engineering of grape varieties, novel fermentation/distillation methods and even tools to help predict and monitor wine quality could really change the industry. Even with current advances in genomics/proteomics, biosensors etc… wine making seems to be fairly black box – “controlled” and managed by expert craftsmen (such as Steve Mirassou). Can technology help to take out some of the guess work and tacit knowledge that only a few of these people possess? No matter what the weather throws at the grapes, can technology help people like Steve never produce a bad bottle of wine? In my mind, this would represent the types of industry changes that would reflect real innovation.

  26. Emma says:

    I think the room for innovation in the wine industry is in all of the aspects surrounding and ancillary to the wine itself. This would include the packaging, distribution channels, streamline production, etc. Perhaps even the method in which we drink and share wine is a vehicle for innovation.

    I think the way in which Steven Kent is innovative is not in the wine itself, but is through intentionally weaving the “story” of the wine experience into all levels of the iOrganization. The story is clearly there in the Leadership&HR level (through Steven’s family history) and seems to be a key feature of their business model (customer enters a homey tasting room and is welcomed warmly). Through Steven’s discussion of the business structure it seems to be there too in how employees and leadership innovate over a shared wine experience and tailor products to match the experience they want to have with the wine. At the functional level, Steven discussed appearance of new wine clubs to innovate upon distribution channels, which also harkens to the personalized wine experience the company aims to create for their wine club members. This targeted and pervasive shift of focus from the wine itself, to the *experience* of the wine throughout the iOrganization is how I see SK being innovative.

  27. Joe Six Pack says:

    Beer making pre-dates winemaking by about a millenium.

    Take that you snobs.

  28. Clara Nagy says:

    I think that the wine industry is definitely showing signs of innovation. The consumption of wine in the world has been fairly steady over the thousands of years it has been made (i.e. a large amount of people drink wine on a consistent basis), but the US is not like the rest of the world. As Alyssa pointed out, at the beginning of the US, wine/alcohol consumption was looked down upon (based on our Puritanical roots). Since then, alcohol consumption per capita have experienced a cyclical history. In the current upswing of alcohol consumption, the innovation that occurs in the wine industry is the ability to tie knowledge to taste for the consumer. As information about wine and what is ‘good’ with wine becomes more accessible to the layperson, the more new consistent wine drinkers there are. In this way, the wine industry is being innovative: by intersecting the obsession of control and knowledge in the US society with wine, the luxury conception of wine is quickly changing to the ‘must-have’.

    When using Epicurious.com the other day, I noticed that “snooth” is now offering wine pairings with recipes…pretty smart!
    http://www.snooth.com/

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