The idea for winetech startup Wine Minder was born on company CEO Sam Sheehan’s birthday. His parents had bought a bottle of Penfolds 407 the year he was born, and saved it for a 21st birthday dinner. However, after being stored in the Clermont family home’s hot, humid basement, the birthday bottle was a vinegary disappointment by the time it was opened.
Sam thought there must be a way to know the perfect time to drink a bottle of wine before opening it. Dr Tim MacTaggart, who had already started research in the field, co-foundered WineMinder, a device to help identify the peak drinking time of any bottle.
Mapping the process of wine ageing
He assembled a team of software and hardware engineers and masters of wine to develop an algorithm that maps and tracks the ageing process of a wine based on how old it is and where it is stored, whether that’s next to an oven or a temperature-controlled wine fridge.
The team designed a small bluetooth temperature and humidity data logging device that connects to the online WineMinder phone and web application to tell customers the best time to drink their wine based on these conditions.
Clients store the hardware device with their wine bottles, take a photo of their bottles and upload it to the app. Wine Minder then arranges the bottles in order of the best time to drink, which clients access through the app.
Successfully leveraging existing research
Sam said Wine Minder leveraged existing research and paired it with smart technology to help educate wine lovers.
“Wine Minder is based on research from CSIRO and four university studies into the ageing process of wine. All studies identified that a temperature-controlled cellar isn’t necessary to help wines get to their best, and that any storage conditions impact the rate of wine’s ageing. We took this research and added findings from a master of wines and a food expert to inform the product,” Sam said.
“Wine Minder is not about fear-mongering – we’re about educating people about the best time to drink wine at its peak, as well as telling people when their wine has gone too far.”
Getting feedback from early adopters
Sam said it took 18 months for the Wine Minder idea to gain traction after making 500 devices for a pilot run.
“We quickly sold 430. Our early adopters have been everyone from serious collectors using the product as inventory management to mums and dads who want to drink their wine at its peak. Now, we are getting feedback from these initial customers to ensure the product is fine-tuned for international expansion.
“The Wine Minder technology will soon be able to map any wine in the world. Using online distribution and working with trusted retailers, we are now expanding to the US, then Europe.”
Read more about Wine Minder.