When most people imagine the making of a fine wine, pictures of sun-soaked vineyards, old oak casks, and dimly lit cellars are among the first that come to mind – representations of a process unrefined for hundreds of years. But while the world’s most respected vineyards may stick with traditions and tools that date back to antiquity, a little technology can give the amateur winemaker a leg up in creating his or her own personalized concoction.
The Provina WinePod does just that, by updating the old and archaic process of winemaking with a dash of silicon and circuit boards. Using digital controls, monitoring and automation, the WinePod attempts to open up the process to first-time and amateur home winemaker, making it a foolproof and accessible hobby.
Image Courtesy of Provina
Although you might expect an automated wine-making vat to look something like an oversized life support system, snaked with tubes and wiring, and dotted with lit-up switches, the WinePod actually sports a design clean enough to fit in a kitchen or living room. It’s shaped like an oversized stainless steel wine glass, with wood trim for its “stem” and a tiny control panel pegged to the side near the top. Discrete, it’s certainly not, but haughtily explaining your new hobby to friends and visitors will undoubtedly be half the fun of making wine anyway, and the WinePod will certainly give you the opportunity.
Though operation of the all-in-one fermentation tank and wine press couldn’t quite be described as “simple,” Provina has done everything possible to stack the odds in the owner’s favor. Rather than assuming users know what they’re doing and forcing winemaking newbies to buy books and scour the Internet for information, Provina assumes zero prior knowledge and builds them up from the bottom. The company’s WineCoach software walks first timers through the entire process with written and video directions, showing them exactly what to do, and why they’re doing it.
The other half of WineCoach’s functionality comes from its ability to actually control the WinePod remotely. From the virtual WinePod Dashboard, winemakers can flip the heating system in their tanks on and off, set automatic controls and limits for it, and even view plotted data on charts, all from their computers. The WinePod also transmits back information about its fermenting contents, including vital stats like temperate and sugar level, for tracking and analysis.
Provina goes another step in pushing winemaking digital by adding a social networking element, which allows WinePod users to create profiles for themselves and their wines. Since all of the WinePod’s data automatically makes its way to computer, the community makes it possible to peek at other people’s wines and see what they’re attempting, complete with notes and graphics.
Of course, a fancy fermentation tank is no good without grapes to put in it and hardware for bottling the finished product, but Provina supplies that, too. The company’s Web site allows winemakers to buy gallons of flash-frozen grapes directly from California vineyards, along with bottles corks and labels to put the finishing touches on their homemade vino.
The WinePod may be a perfect new distraction to keep you busy on weekends and show off to your friends, but you might not want to think of it as an investment. The WinePod alone runs for $4,499, so unless you’re downing $350 bottles of Bordeaux with every meal, it probably won’t pay for itself in this lifetime (especially with a shipment of Provina’s grapes running for $700.) That said, winemaking wannabes can find more information on the WinePod at the WinePod Web site, including videos of it in operation and a more information on winemaking.