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Next-gen wine and spirits maturation tech, ripe for investment

Accuro, an early-stage Auckland-based startup is attracting worldwide attention with its innovative system for maturing wine and spirits and now raising a $2million funding round.

Ageing wine and spirits in oak is a huge part of the tradition of wine and spirit making. When most people think of a winery, it’s hard to not envisage a dark room full of oak barrels on their side. Accuro has developed a portable micro-oxygenation device that enables winemakers and distillers to take control of their maturation.

Founded in 2014 as Wine Grenade, the company recently rebranded as Accuro as it started expanding into the spirits market with its patented oxygen diffusion process, which allows wine and spirits to be matured in stainless steel tanks rather than in oak barrels. Fully operational straight out of the box, the device and process significantly reduce costs as well as providing greater control and despite the weight of that tradition, the product is gaining ground in winemaking regions all over the world.

The oak that wines and spirits traditionally mature in is permeable and the process is simply a slow exchange of oxygen. It is, however, a somewhat uncontrolled process with huge variation between barrels; winemakers and distillers can really only control the amount of time their product spends in the barrel and the age of the barrels they choose to use. Connected to the cloud using the winery’s Wi-Fi network, Accuro’s device delivers a precise amount of oxygen per litre of wine per month in a stainless-steel tank to imitate the traditional barrel ageing process.

“We amplify and mimic nature’s ageing process, which lets winemakers and distillers create mature wines and spirits in a fraction of the time,” Accuro CEO, Mark Eltom explained.

“Maturation is the process of the oxygen in the air interacting with the wood, the oak, and the wine or the spirit. Accuro brings that together, and speeds it up a little bit, supplying oxygen in a very controlled and precise way. Makers can dial up the maturation, or they can dial it back down depending on what they need. By integrating the oak component more quickly and in a more uniform way, wineries and distilleries can bring their product to market more quickly without compromise.”

Mark said, “Time is a fire we burn so why wait for good wine or whiskey?”

Accuro’s micro-oxygenation device is a vital part of the product suite, and Mark added that its newly released fermentation probe adds yet another level of control for wine makers and distillers. “We have just released a real time fermentation probe and the combination of that probe, and our next-generation micro-oxygenation device is the most advanced oxygenation system in the world. This means we can now service any winery in the world, regardless of its size, its production and we can now do every stage of production, which is a testament to the hard work of our engineering team.”

Photo courtesy of Chapel Hill Winery

Accuro has sold its product into Spain, has beachheads in southern France, Canada, Mexico, Paraguay and a newly signed major distributor in the United States. Now Accuro is seeking to raise a $2 million funding round from interested investors.

“Now that we’ve released some new products and are getting more sales under our belt, Accuro will be looking to raise capital in New Zealand and Australia, as that’s our investor base from before. That capital will deepen our knowledge and further develop our fermentation sensors. We’re also looking to further develop the spirits maturation piece that we’re rolling out at the moment.

“The perfect investor would be somebody who believes deeply in what we do because we’re trying to change the world in our small way. The bonus trait would be somebody who can help fill the gaps in the team or in the company. We have a couple of investors that pitch in and help out and when it happens, that’s just magic.”

Accuro technology a ‘game changer’ for lowering production costs

The oxygenation system has been dubbed a “game changer” by Chapel Hill Winery’s winemaker, Bryn Richards, based in South Australia’s McLaren Vale region.

“There is a huge amount of romance and tradition around winemaking but for wines of a certain style, size and volume the benefits of taking the oak barrels out of the equation are pretty compelling,” explained Bryn.

Chapel hill winery barrels

Photo courtesy of Chapel Hill Winery.

“Oak is a massive labour cost, every four or five months you have to empty the wine out, wash all the barrels, turn them over, refill them and that’s very labour intensive. And if you’re using older oak, it doesn’t matter how good your cleaning regime – oak is a natural material and over time the wood grain starts to harbor bacteria and undesirable kinds of yeasts, which can all affect the finished product.”

“To put some hard numbers around that. A 50,000-litre tank using Accuro costs $2,500 a year to run and that’s labour, oxygen cylinders, Accuro subscription and wine loss. In oak, the equivalent would be 166 hogsheads (300 litres each) and between the labour of emptying, washing and refilling those 166 barrels plus the evaporation loss, the cost would be $12,420 a year. That’s not including costs such as running the forklifts for lifting the barrels, energy, barrel maintenance and water. To wash 166 barrels three times takes around 45,000 litres of water. We run at least 300,000 litres of wine annually using Accuro so we’re saving around 270,000 litres of water,” said Bryn.

Will wine drinkers be able to taste the difference?

Wine is steeped in tradition, it’s a distillation of sunshine, soil and rain in a glass and any new technique ultimately has to pass the taste test for wine drinkers. Mark believes Accuro’s oxygenation technology offers a significant boost to drinkability. “I don’t want to get too wine chemistry geeky here but think of a red wine that’s got that bite, those harsh tannins, the colour is a bit pale and it’s a bit grippy on the sides and back of the palate. By integrating oxygen and oak, the wine mellows, stabilises the colour and you can feel it glide over your tongue, it’s just smoother and silkier,” said Mark.

Tom Dixon, winemaker of Villa Maria Wines, in the heart of New Zealand’s Marlborough region, agreed the technology is a valuable tool.

grapes

Photo courtesy of Villa Maria Winery.

“It has delivered great results with cleaning up reduction and softening the palate. The versatility and ease of use has been very impressive, and it has proved to be useful in all steps of the winemaking process from primary fermentation of white wines to maturation of our reds.”

Accuro (then Wine Grenade) featured as a participant in the 2019 evokeAG. Startup Program, and is a valuable member of the evokeAG. alumni. The evokeAG. Startup Program is designed to build the capacity of startups in the global agrifood tech ecosystem and provides a platform for founders to share their stories, and showcase their agritech solutions for global agricultural challenges. Applications for the 2022 Startup Program open on Monday, 4 October, 2021 and close on Monday, 25 October, 2021.

For interested investors, please contact Mark Eltom here.

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