Colio Estate Wines is a 600,000-case winery located on the southwestern tip of Ontario Canada, producing a wide range of table, sparkling, flavoured wines and icewine under Colio brands Bricklayer's and Girls' Night Out. Head winemaker Allison Christ and her small team have their hands full, keeping track of 40 different finished wines annually, with most of their vineyards a four-hour drive away.
In addition to standard alcoholic beverage compliance, Colio Estate Wines must also adhere to the Vintners Quality Alliance’s (VQA) regulations, which assure high quality and authenticity of origin. To be certified by the VQA, the wine will go through the province’s lab analysis and tasting panel, have harvest Brix of all components taken by a third party, and the winery must commit to the unwieldy process of accurately tracking every component from grape to bottle.
On top of all that, as of July 15, 2020, all Canadian wineries must comply with the new Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) manufactured food lot tracing regulations. CFIA now requires a substantially higher level of traceability and compliance for the Canadian wine industry. Allison had to be certain that her winery could pass an audit.
Like most Ontario and BC wineries, Allison and her Colio team found VQA compliance complex and cumbersome. Prior to installing vintrace in March 2020, Colio managed many separate spreadsheets to track harvest Brix, appellation and varietal. Allison explains that for each VQA wine, “we’d have to find percentage composition by block numbers in a mini spreadsheet.”
Installing vintrace made Colio’s VQA compliance faster and easier. The VQA Harvest Brix field in vintrace is used to capture the sugar testing done by the GGO (Grape Growers of Ontario) to automatically follow the harvest sugar and appellation varietal to the final blend. Where Allison once had to dig for information, the data now flows by itself, which is “much more intuitive and a big time saver”. She estimates that her team is spending half as much time on the annual LCBO audit and VQA submissions, with the time saved being refocused on wine quality.
Allison’s experience with lot tracking in vintrace.
Why did Allison choose vintrace for lot tracking?
Lot tracking compliance was entirely new and mandatory, and Allison explains, “our old system couldn’t do it.” With the July 15 deadline looming, she was in the market for winery software and needed one that would work right away. After reviewing several systems, Allison chose vintrace for Colio, as “you could easily track grapes and all dry-good additions into every single wine,” which is critical when producing five million liters annually.
How does vintrace support lot tracking at Colio?
Lot traceability means producing accurate records based on the bottle stamp code, and Allison now knows that “absolutely everything is tied to the bottle stamp code.” The code becomes the parent for everything in that lot, not only the grapes but also additives and their lot codes and expiration dates.
What was the most significant benefit to installing vintrace at Colio?
Allison estimates that without vintrace, they would likely have to hire another person just for record-keeping. Faced with an audit or product recall, Colio can now both quickly and correctly explain what is in any of their bottled wines, adding, “if we had to do it manually, I’d still be working on the last harvest five months ago.”
What are some of the other benefits Colio has experienced using vintrace?
- Real-time data from distant vineyards. As most of Colio’s grapes are a four-hour drive away, they would hire someone local to sample the vineyards and report back. Previously, they would email a spreadsheet and talk to the winemaker weekly about their observations. With vintrace, Brix and other data are entered directly into the Colio’s database while the sampler is still in the vineyard, along with GPS-pinned photos of the grapes, vineyard health and anything else worth noting. They can later return to the exact spot to see changes. After just one season, Allison is benefiting from having “certainty and hard data instead of anecdotes.”
- Colio now has a single system as vintrace is used for their winery and cidery Thornbury Village. vintrace tracks both production facilities, separating the production teams tanks, barrels, additives, and case good inventory. Accounting gets what it wants—a single database to run reports and add cost easily.
- The switch; it took Colio’s team just three weeks to get fully transferred to vintrace. They wisely chose to start in March, several months before harvest. After a year with vintrace, they have set a goal to go paperless in the summer of 2021.
As a winemaker, Allison gives this advice to any Canadian winery considering upgrading their production tracking software.
“vintrace is a lifesaver because it’s so simple to use. You can focus more on winemaking and not so much on writing and data entry. Reporting is so clear and easy, even for a smaller winery with the number of transactions, just smaller volumes. You don’t want to keep your records in a box in the attic.”
“I estimate that since installing vintrace, my team spends half as much time on the annual LCBO audit and VQA submissions, with the time saved being refocused on wine quality.”
Allison Christ, Head Winemaker,
Colio Estate Wines, Ontario Canada
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