As Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer of Winely, Abbe Hyde, is a technologist seeking to successfully help winemakers save time, money, and manpower associated with the craft of winemaking, thus maximizing their creativity, and optimizing their output. Abbe is helping unlock the true depth of a wine’s vintage via an AI-powered precision fermentation solution.
She loves technology and has been focused on different innovations during her career to make life on our planet more sustainable — including turning corn into ethanol and biofuels. Winely’s technology leverages the most universally accurate sensors on the market to deliver up-to-the-second data insights and fermentation analysis to help winemakers better understand their process.
Abbe truly believes that technology can make the world a better place, and with better wine I certainly do not doubt her efforts. I spoke with her regarding wine, fermentation, and her unique process.
Help me to understand exactly what your technology does to improve winemaking?
This is an excellent starting point. I love to talk about the technology. What we are building with Winely is precision fermentation analysis technology. We are helping the winemaker optimize their winemaking through real time data and predictive analysis. Currently, winemakers tend to have a difficult time when their wine is fermenting, which is the initial stage in taking the grapes from the vineyard and turning them into the amazing wine we know and love. Employees have to run around and manually check everything in the tanks multiple times a day for days on end. We ease the process by providing sophisticated data analysis to help them track any issues within each tank in real-time, and respond accordingly; eliminating the need for manual sampling.
Does it make the wine taste different? Does it make it better?
It allows the winemaker to optimize the journey of the grape. Right now, decision-making in winemaking is often based on “we have to do this, because if we don’t, something might go wrong,” opposed to focusing on how we can improve the quality of the wine and optimize the grapes’ journey. That’s why we need real-time analysis. Fermentation is a very fast and volatile process. Some grapes ferment into wine over the course of 72 hours. So, when you are thinking about having to take a manual sample from a tank, it can take 36 hours before you get that information and decide what to do. By then, it’s too late. It’s tricky to ensure your wine quality is always great. So, I would say yes, through real-time fermentation analysis, we help make the quality of wine better.
Putting technology into making wine, I think that’s so cool. I was always under the impression, correct me if I’m wrong, that the longer the wine fermented, the better the wine. Is that not true?
You are probably visualizing a barrel and a barrel hall right now. Barrel halls are beautiful and are the most pictured part of a winery because of how stunningly gorgeous they are — not to mention the smells that come from them are wonderful. Wine is sometimes fermented in a barrel, but it actually spends the majority of its fermentation time in a stainless-steel tank. That is what we call primary fermentation, which happens within 20 days or less. What you’re envisioning with the barrels is the aging process of wine and that can take years. However, when it comes to its flavor profiles, most of the properties of the wine develop within 20 days.
Is there a different process for white, rosé, and red wine?
With white wine, which is made from white grapes, the skins are removed, resulting in a clear juice. However, white wine can take on an orange color if the skins were left in contact with the juice during crushing and fermentation. But with red wine, the color (and tannins) come from the grape skins and seeds.
I’ve never seen an orange wine, but I’ve seen a mead wine made from honey.
Yes, that is much different, no grapes.
How did you know to take this technology into making wine?
I have always been a researcher and a technologist searching for areas of improvement where technology could be implemented and make a huge difference. My Co-founder is a biotechnologist. The first time we had an in-depth conversation, it was weirdly enough about fermentation. Fermentation is a production process that can be used to make many different things and wine is one of the most notable, along with beer, and it’s increasingly becoming the process of choice for alternative protein — but it also extends to things that don’t readily come to mind such as biofuels. My Co-founder was learning about how biofuel was made through a fermentation process. Over time, I spoke with more than 100 winemakers about their fermentation, trying to learn as much as possible about the process. I realized that even though we’ve been making wine for thousands of years, we don’t know how it originally happened or how it truly works. It’s fascinating to me. That’s when my Co-founder and I had the thought, “let’s throw some technology in there and find out what’s going on.”
What inspired you to become a technologist?
I absolutely love technology’s ability to solve major world problems. My favorite example is climate change. I think a lot of people see climate change as the big trade off issue — thinking we have to stop driving our cars or else we’re all responsible for destroying the planet. But technology is playing a key role in this lucrative space where we can have a win-win result by protecting the planet without sacrificing our transportation needs. When I met my Co-founder, I was researching the transportation industry. It’s the world’s biggest producer of carbon. I was looking at how technology could change this outcome and the thing that really stood out to me is that we already have amazing technology that is addressing this. We don’t need to give up our cars. We can see very clearly that if we can keep scaling up technologies like fermenting fuel, or electric vehicles, we can drive our cars as much as we want and not hurt the planet. That’s why I love technology. It opens a new world where we can have everything we want while addressing our planet’s most consequential issues.
I have one last question for you, have you ever seen a kangaroo?
I have, yes, many. I have seen them crossing the road and I had to swerve to avoid them. I’ve seen them dead on the road because someone didn’t swerve in time. In Australia, they are considered a bit of a menace for the number of cars they take out.
So, I guess they are like deer to us?
Exactly like that! Good parallel — and they jump in odd ways.