Bordeaux in southwest France is building on the reputation of its chateaus and a 2000-year tradition of winemaking to position itself as a global hub for winetech startups.
The French city and the region around it are now home to a growing number of incubators and accelerators, several of which are trying to attract tech entrepreneurs specifically to spur an ecosystem of innovation in and around vineyards.
Just last month, the owner of Château Le Sartre, about a half-hour drive from downtown Bordeaux, announced he’s making room to host 20 startups or more for 6 to 12 months at his bucolic estate as part of a new accelerator programme.
The point at Château Le Sartre is to give innovators direct access to the daily activities of a vineyard, where they can experiment with new ideas in a live production setting.
This comes as, across the country, technology built specifically for wine amateurs and producers is gaining support from French investors like the Rothschild family and luxury and spirits giant LVMH, which each own some of the world’s best-rated chateaus.
French winemakers are also increasingly adopting technology, including sophisticated drones and all sorts of robots, and opening up to new partners to upgrade their production methods.
Marketplaces, then what?
A first wave of startups around the world has already ventured into winetech with a marketplace approach.
There are services that let consumers do everything from buy boxes of wine directly from producers, exchange the best bottles from their cellar with other individuals, or crowdfund to support vineyards.
Those types of businesses have swayed investors and some have even reaped hefty valuations. California’s Wine.com, an online wine retailer which offers users live chats with sommeliers, is currently exploring funding that would make it the next wine unicorn according to Bloomberg. Rival Vivino boasts more than 45m users.
Now there’s room for technology that makes a difference on the production side too. Here are the up and coming French winetech upstarts doing just that -- as well as a few that are making wine better for consumers.
Sifted’s list of French winetech startups
- Naïo Technologies. Vineyards around the world are experimenting with their robot called Ted built for weeding and spraying.
- La Vie Du Vin. Tracking devices designed specifically for wine bottles. They let producers monitor temperature, light, humidity, vibrations and the exact position of their bottles (geographically, but also horizontally speaking) during transport.
- Désalcoolisation. Provides technology and advises winemakers on taking the alcohol out of their products. Built on the premise that there’s increasing appetite from consumers for low or zero alcohol wines.
- Winesee. Is building several apps, including software for wine producers to collect and analyse data from taste tests. The consumer side of that is an app that uses similar algorithms to ask people what they like and don’t like to eat and suggest wines based on that.
- Aveine. Makes a connected device that plugs onto the top of a bottle to air the wine directly upon pouring it into a glass. The specific parameters for airing each wine can be set through an associated app, and by scanning the bottle’s barcode with a smartphone.
- Smartbottle. Augmented reality used specifically for labels on wine bottles. Lets producers embed a recorded video or include content that’s almost like a mini-website into the labels. Consumers can then scan with a smartphone to see the animated content.
- Dans ma Bouteille. Lets people scan their wine bottles the way they would a box of cookies, to find out how many calories are in there, as well as the exact ingredients.
- Baqio. Like Salesforce, but built for winemakers to manage day to day operations.
- Wikeeps. Uses a specific type of gas cartridge in its devices that sit atop opened wine bottles to allow for serving one glass at a time while preserving the rest for several weeks. Wikeeps isn’t alone making this type of product, and in France competes with others including Altavinis and D-Vine.
- Winespace. Uses artificial intelligence to build wine recommendation software for supermarkets.
- Vinovae. Repackages normal-sized wine bottles into tinier ones using a patented technique that doesn’t alter the flavor, according to the company. The goal is to be able to distribute the tiny bottles as samples.