Whether in solving a problem or seeing an opportunity, six wine industry suppliers were recognized for their ingenuity and know-how in developing innovative products and solutions for vineyards and wineries.

In some cases, these industry suppliers listened to and worked with wineries to develop solutions for the problems faced. In others, they have looked to the future and saw opportunities for the industry to prosper and created a new product to reach that vision. But they all represent the vanguard of product and service innovation that is essential for the advancement and prosperity of the wine industry.

Wine Industry Network’s fourth annual WINnovation Award winners for excellence in wine industry innovation are Cork Supply USA Inc., eProvenance, Falcon Crop Protection, Free Flow Wines, and O-I Packaging Solutions and Amorim Cork. Here’s why these companies merited recognition.

DS100+ by Cork Supply USA Inc.

Cork remains the preferred closure of consumers and premium wines, and it is important for wine brands to be able to deliver the high quality experience their customers. Although on the decline, cork taint (TCA) continues to compromise a small percentage of natural cork closures, which is why Cork Supply’s DS100+ 100 percent TCA-free guarantee is an important advancement.

The DS100+ equipment unveiled earlier this year detects TCA down to 1 part per trillion, far below the human sensory threshold, and the machine automated process makes it faster and more reliable than human sensory detection methods. Cork Supply expects to be processing 60 million corks through the DS100+ system in 2017.

Shipment monitoring system by eProvenance

With direct to consumer wine sales on the rise, much of today’s premium wine is shipped across the nation and world, but the winery has little control over how the wine is treated after it leaves the winery, and temperature spikes during shipment can cook the wine, changing its taste and aroma, without damaging the packaging, leaving the consumer with a negative product experience without the winery knowing why.

eProvenance conducted extensive research exposing wines at different temperatures and having professional tasters detect the difference in the taste and aroma of the wine. Tasters noticed that wine had been cooked after the wine had been subjected to as little as 30 degrees Celsius heat (86 degrees Fahrenheit) for a total of just over two days.

The eProvenance monitoring system uses this research in combination with high-tech sensors and a secure, online data platform to monitor and analyze the temperature, humidity and geolocation of shipments at the case, pallet or container level during transport and storage. Their online analytics engine uses proprietary, scientifically based algorithms to determine whether wine is still fresh, or whether the aroma, taste and aging ability may have been compromised.

All this independent third party data is available to the wineries, so they can know if their wine shipment was damaged and work with their shipping company to rectify any problems, file insurance claims, and make sure their customers receive the wine in the condition it was intended.

Falcon Kite by Falcon Crop Protection

Loss of grapes due to bird damage can be a nuisance as well as costly to vineyards, and effective protection like vine netting also come with a high price tag, but the ingenious Falcon Kite from Healdsburg-based Falcon Crop Protection is both effective, test results show 95 percent–100 percent repulsion of pest birds, and cost-effective. One Falcon Kite can protect more than an acre of vineyards and last several seasons.

The Falcon Kite is designed to look and move like a Peregrine Falcon; suspended between poles the kite needs very little wind (2 miles per hour) to self-launch and move randomly like a predator, which makes the kite indistinguishable from the a real falcon to other birds and continues to scare them away.

Sparkling wine kegs by Free Flow Wines

Napa-based Free Flow Wines has been the standard bearer for wine on tap and the promise not only to deliver a quality by the glass wine experience, but also make it more sustainable with reduced packaging and carbon footprint. With the rising popularity of sparkling wines and the category’s particular challenges for delivering an optimal by the glass experience, Free Flow Wines’ work to create a sparkling keg program for wineries deserve recognition.

Free Flow Wines uses a state of the art in-line carbonation system rather than the more traditional charmat method and has also developed a set of draft dispense protocols for restaurant operators to ensure a perfect pour every time, with no foam and plenty of sparkle. Their 100 percent reusable stainless steel kegs not only preserve wine quality and carbonation levels, but also help to reduce the environmental footprint of wines served by the glass.

Helix by O-I Packaging Solutions and Amorim Cork

Most consumers prefer cork, but they also love the convenience of screw top closures; with Helix they can have both. Like many great ideas, it sounds simple, but it took two leading wine packaging companies years of research and development to perfect a closure that could combine the quality seal and pop of cork with the twist off convenience of screw tops.

The grooved Amorim cork and matching O-I threaded bottleneck come together to create the innovative Helix packaging. American wine consumers now can experience the Helix for the first time with Bronco Wine Company’s Red Truck brand.