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Thursday 2 October 2014

Home winemakers now need only a pod and a laptop

21st November, 2013 by Rupert Millar

A US company is offering people the chance to buy winemaking equipment they can install at home and produce their own wine with a computer programme.

winepod-1WinePod is a four-foot tall, 75 litre “all-in-one ferment/press/ageing tank”, which gives owners the chance to make four cases of wine per batch with the aid of their laptop and the makers say it is the first such system of its kind available to the public.

The system is the brainchild of Greg Snell from California’s Silicon Valley who told the BBC that he thought there was a growing market for sophisticated, “do it yourself” winemaking.

Speaking to the BBC he said: “People want to have a sense of creation. If you want to enjoy a bottle of wine you can just go to the store and buy a bottle of wine, there’s so many choices for you.

“But if you drink a bottle of wine that you’ve created or, perhaps more importantly, share a bottle of wine that you’ve created and it’s good, that’s a completely different experience.”

The project first sparked interest in 2005 when a blogger wrote about, what was then, his still nascent idea.

By 2007 however having secured enough capital and in partnership with fellow Silicon Valley technologists, Dr. T.J. Rodgers, Dr. Vlad Firer, Dr. Michael Ravkin, Rich Phipps, Mark Holst and Tom Lorincz, Snell had sold 150 WinePods and then the financial crisis struck and with funding becoming a problem the business was forced to close down.

Interest had not entirely dissipated though and with people still sending enquiries about where they could buy WinePod, Snell decided to relaunch in summer of this year with Snell now in control of all intellectual property rights.

Snell told the BBC he is planning a big push into China next year, where he hopes to sell “hundreds” of the pods.

Full details of how the pod works can be found on the website here.

In practice the device is relatively simple, budding vignerons add grapes to the machine (WinePod’s site can recommend growers who sell grapes) and then link the pod to a home computer which has the WineCoach software updated.

Once the programme is begun, the pod will ferment, press and monitor the juice/wine while the computer guides the user through the winemaking process using the most “up-to-date” methods.

The pod and computer can also measure the temperature, acidity and Brix levels to allow the winemaker to make their preferred adjustments. After a few months, the wine is ready to be bottled.

There are several pods available, the “classic” pod costs US$4,500 (£2,800), while a simpler stainless steel pod with none of the sensory additions can be bought for $1,999.

Various extras can also be bought, such as a 30 litre oak barrel ($400), a bottling kit with 48 bottles, corks and sealing wax ($300), yeast, nutrients, enzymes etc ($300) and an accessories kit including a punch down tool, siphon and hydrometer ($400).

A complete kit with WinePod, software, barrel, yeasts and enzymes, general accessories, bottling kit and a choice of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc can be bought for $8,999.

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