Award-winning Vancouver innovator develops new wine-making tech
Vancouver entrepreneur Miayan Yeremi has launched new technology that gives winemakers the unprecedented opportunity to know exactly what’s going on behind the wooden slats of each oak barrel in a wine cellar.
The disruptive product has earned Miayan Yeremi, 31, a prestigious award from Mitacs, a national innovation organization that fosters growth by solving business challenges with research solutions from academic institutions.
Traditionally, monitoring barrel-aging wine is a time-consuming, labour-intensive task requiring winemakers to sample and analyze barrels in order to make adjustments to the contents. Adjustments such as adding preservatives are made to the entire cellar, even though only a small percentage of barrels can be sampled due to resource constraints. For large wineries, the job typically requires a dedicated crew working around the clock, explained Yeremi, and the analysis — which is performed in a lab — doesn’t necessarily paint an accurate picture of what’s going on in all of the barrels.
“Using the BarrelWise barrel management system, a winery worker can draw a quick wine sample during the topping process, perform the necessary chemical analysis right there in the cellar, and adjust the wine in each barrel according to its individual results within seconds,” said Yeremi. A study conducted in partnership with Sandhill Winery of Kelowna, B.C., found the BarrelWise system to be 74 per cent faster than traditional barrel work methods.
The company’s approach to modernizing the centuries-old craft is unique because the sophisticated computer system and remote sensors required to analyse and control wine samples are placed on the cart while the mechanics of the barrel bung — or stopper — remain dedicated to pushing wine in and out. This means winemakers can quickly and easily sample as many as 2,000 barrels from a single cart, and generate key chemical readings right at the barrel. Other non-related attempts to modernize barrel care add the sensors to the bungs themselves, meaning each barrel requires its own sensor — a strategy that is simply cost prohibitive to implement on a large scale, he explained.
A key advantage of BarrelWise Technologies’ smart cart — which will be ready for commercialization next year — is an innovative sensor developed by Yeremi to accurately and quickly measure preservative as an early warning system. “If levels dip, the sensor alerts and the barrel can be investigated before it becomes problematic,” he said, explaining that preservatives, referred to as free SO2 or sulphites, are necessary to prevent microbial spoilage and fight off oxygenation. In addition, the sensor will allow for monthly free SO2 additions to be customized to each barrel, allowing for more process control and consistency.
Since launching in 2018, BarrelWise Technologies has doubled in size and is already working with several large wineries in the Okanagan Valley, California and other parts of the world. Moving forward, it plans to use the data collected by its system to perform big data analysis, enabling winemakers to better understand the distinctive characteristics of each handcrafted barrel, ultimately resulting in better-tasting wine. The COVID-19 pandemic is also putting the company on the map because wineries see its innovative system an effective way to maintain safe social distancing measures since one person can do the work of several singlehandedly.