Brothers Joshua and Simon Schmidt started their Barossa Valley company Vinnovate in 2012 and have since developed a bottle closure that releases a solution to reduce the impact of preservatives or add subtle flavours to wine.
When activated, by pressing a button on top of a screw cap, the solution is mixed with the wine and binds to free sulphites, removing their preservative properties and reducing their ability to cause a reaction.
The Vinnovate invention has beaten more than 100 Australian and New Zealand industry innovations to take out the Brancott Estate Winexplorer challenge, which carries a A$35,000 (US$26,350) cash prize plus the opportunity to work with Pernod Ricard to bring the product to market.
Joshua Schmidt, the company’s chief innovation officer, said the award was a huge thrill.
“We believe that the Winexplorer challenge has validated our idea and it now gives us a springboard from which to go forward,” he said, adding that it would be up to the consumer as to whether they activated the solution or not.
“We’ve found from a lot of market research that more and more people are experiencing a reaction when they drink wine and it’s actually pushing people away from the industry.
“We wanted to create something that was very similar to an existing screw cap but has an element of functionality because across the wider consumer goods space there is a strong trend towards individualisation.”
Sulphites are preservatives widely used in winemaking because of their antioxidant and antibacterial properties. However, common reactions to these include headaches and red, itchy skin.
“Being Barossa boys and children of the industry, we set out to find a means so that everyone can enjoy wine,” Joshua said.
“We believe it freshens the wine up as well and allows it to be more of a consumer-centric experience, rather than traditionally having to wait for 30 to 60 minutes after opening for the wine to ‘breathe’.
“We want to do something good for the industry.”
Vinnovate managing director Simon Schmidt is a winemaker while his brother’s background is in marketing, with a particular focus on the pharmaceutical industry.
The Schmidt brothers have developed prototypes and have commenced discussions with a number of wineries around trials.
Joshua said he hoped for a commercial release towards the end of the year.
“It’s our vision to see this as the next generation screw cap closure for wine,” he said.
“We currently are talking to some wineries about this and it’s our goal that this would be inclusive wine packaging.
“We believe this has tremendous widespread appeal and application just like how the Clare Valley was an early adopter of the screw cap 40-odd years ago.”