Eating & Drinking

Optical eye sees Game Changer revolutionizing winemaking

When something is as ancient as, say, winemaking – a craft that may have been practised for nearly 7,000 years – one might wonder whether there can be any great evolutionary moments left — a moment where an idea causes such a leap forward that it’s never the same again. This is what’s known as a game changer.

When it comes to winemaking, Vineland Estates Winery in Niagara is one of only a handful of wineries in North America that have embraced a faster, more perfect way of selecting grapes. Indeed, it is a game changer.

Imagine if you could somehow select only the most perfect grapes from the vines and do so at a speed far greater than what is obtainable by human selection. Automation might be able to sort grapes faster, but how would it do this without also selecting imperfect grapes and including other unwanted materials such as stems, leaves, petioles, etc.? A truly game changing technology would have to be able to look at the grapes and determine, within milliseconds, whether a grape was ideal or not. And it would have to do it continuously for thousands of grapes per second.

Pellenc Selective Process System uses an optical eye and high speed photography to select ideal grapes
Pellenc Selective Process System uses an optical eye and high speed photography to select ideal grapes

Vineland Estates is embracing a new technology – a game changer – that does just that. The winery has one of only 11 Pellenc Selective Process Systems in operation across the continent, which is, essentially, a sophisticated sorting machine with an optical eye. Through a process of high-speed digital photography, the Optical Sorter selects only the most perfect grapes for winemaking. The result, according to the winery, is “revolutionary.”

And because this technology is so revolutionary, Vineland Estates was inspired to create the Game Changer label. The 2015 Game Changer Red, for example, is a boldly forward blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon whose varietals were selected using the Optical Sorter, ensuring a wine that delivers an array of mature field berry notes.

But Vineland’s Game Changer label wasn’t just inspired by this particular technology — it was also inspired by individuals who, through their vision and drive, have changed the winemaking business. One such person is Eddie Gurinskas. Despite living and working in Ottawa, he and his wife, Lorraine, chose to drive to Niagara every weekend to plant and work a vineyard, just a few kilometres down the road from Vineland. “And it’s not as though they relaxed when they arrived either,” says David Hulley, director of customer experience at Vineland Estates. “After driving for six hours they got right to work.” The couple made this arduous trip for four years throughout the mid- to late eighties. Their dedication and passion to winemaking makes them game changers. And in sharing the Gurinskas’ story, Vineland recognizes their contribution to the Niagara community of winemakers.

Along with the Estate’s game changing wine, comes game changer cheese. Teaming up with Stonetown Artisan Cheese in St. Mary’s, Ontario, Vineland has infused a semi-soft cheese with both their Game Changer red and white wine. The result is two smooth, almost creamy cheeses that have a subtle, but distinct flavour of their respective wines — the perfect compliment to either of Vineland’s Game Changer wines.