Alumni Stories – Wine Grenade

Wine Grenade, established in 2014, has developed a portable micro-oxygenation device (the grenade) that gives winemakers more control and flexibility in maturing their wines.

The use of oak barrels is one of the oldest traditions in winemaking. Wine, particularly chardonnay and red varietals such as cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir,  when aged in oak becomes softer and takes on delicious flavours. The porous nature of the oak also allows slow oxygenation of the wine without spoiling. However, investing in oak barrels is costly, especially for smaller wineries. Managing the barrels is also labour-intensive.

In 2014, five students studying towards our Master of Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship came up with an idea now shaking up wine-industry traditions. In collaboration with the government’s Plant & Food Research Institute, they adapted technology initially used in protecting food in transit. The first use of the technology was for the acceleration of fruit ripening by the release of minute amounts of ethylene at a slow and consistent rate.

Their adaption of that technology is represented in a new product known as Wine Grenade. This nano-oxygenation device slowly releases oxygen into wine stored in stainless steel tanks, with the results mimicking the oak ageing process. The technology is more affordable than oak maturation for small wineries without the economies of scale. Oak barrel maturation can add $2 to $5 to the cost of a bottle of wine whereas Wine Grenade adds only four to eight cents a bottle.

Wine Grenade won the Velocity $100K Challenge in 2014. This allowed them to work within the Icehouse business incubator and prepare to run commercial trials in New Zealand and the United States, which they did in 2015 and 2016.