Wine and Tech – a Dismal Marriage

On Sunday 31 July 2016 one of the most innovative pieces of software ever developed for the wine industry was shut down by the company that purchased it a little more than a year before. Despite having literally thousands of winery customers around the globe who used it to monitor and engage in the social media conversations conducted by their customers and fans, the software formerly known as VinTank was shuttered because its ‘business and client base were not aligned with our firm’s current and future business strategy and focus’, according to Bob Pearson, the chief innovation officer of VinTank’s new parent the W20 Group.

The shuttering of one of the few truly powerful pieces of digital wine technology underscores just how backward the wine industry continues to be, even as the rest of the world changes around it. ‘I’d say the industry is easily a decade behind the rest of the business world’, says Paul Mabray (pictured), the man who founded VinTank and then sold it in 2015, hoping to accelerate its growth and success.

Mabray, based in Napa, has never quite reconciled himself to the wine industry’s seeming blindness to the value of the Internet. He likes to tell the story of the wine producer who told him they had decided to invest their remaining marketing budget in making a T-shirt instead of paying the (very reasonable) monthly fee for his software.

‘If you look at any wine industry innovation award ceremony around the globe’, says Mabray with a sigh, ‘wineries only ever win anything for a new package, a new label, or what’s in the bottle. Innovation in the wine industry isn’t how you market, how you sell, or how you use technology, it’s what you put on the front of the bottle.’

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