AI applied to winemaking and en-primeur

David BECK Academic - Economics, Society and Political science - Environment and Technologies (AI, blockchain)

Winegrowers will be able to apply AI in winemaking whether it is against rot (botrytis cinerea). AI also open huge fields in the accompaniment of oenoligists towards the sustainability (from one vintage to another) and the character of the wine.

In this series of articles, I have been analyzing the relationship between wine, personalization and AI. In the first article, I have been reviewing different AI to personalize the wine experience for consumers. In the second post, I have been considering nudge marketing for wine, an experience goods. This is the last article.

I had the pleasure of interviewing leading players in the wine and the tech industries. For this chapter, I have discussed with (sorted by alphabetical order):
Katerina Axelsson Co-Founder & CEO at Tastry
Vijay Bhagwandas Co-Founder & CEO at Tasting Intelligence
Pam Dillon Co-Founder & CEO at Preferabli
Magalie Dubois Assistant professor at Burgundy School of Business
Julian Perry CEO at Wine-Seacher
Tristan Rousselle Founder & Deputy CEO at Aryballe
Charles Slocum Chief Business Officer at Tastry
Gérard Spatafora Managing Director at E-Studi’
Andrew Sussman Chief Technical Offer at Preferabli

I also contacted 7 wine critics. None of them replied.

Is this really a matter between traditionalist and techie professionals?

Is tradition still the future of wine? The subject asked during a conference at the Wine Paris 2022 was interesting. The subject was so catchy! So I have started watching the video. But here it is, the debate turned around the usual themes: traditional winemaking techniques, rules regulating the PGOs and PGIs, the development of organic, biodynamic and natural wines vs. table wines. Not very prospective or strategic in the medium term. Let’s say rather very centered on production than on consumption.

Something tells me that is was not the same organization and panelists were invited to the Future Drinks Expo by the Beverage Trade Network in 2022. The topic was the same “current solutions and future plans for the beverage industry”. In San Francisco, the conversation was more about AI and blockchain.

Would the debate have been more interesting if it had opposed traditionalists and techies? I don’t think so. I am not sure that asking the question that way is the right one. It is not about choosing between one to another. There is no reason to confront people, professionals, approaches on these subjects. It would be sterile. Each professional is free to do as wished, according to means and constraints.

AI will help small wine producers, for example from Greece or Bulgaria

Gerard Spataforia, Managing Director at E-Studi’OZ

The collection and processing of data is involved in the whole process: on a small scale first in the production process, elaboration and wine tasting. Let’s consider the implication for 3 groups of professionals: winegrowers, producers / mass producers, and prestige estates.

1. AI to assist growers in winemaking

From the photographic analysis of the grapes, carried out before the harvest, we gather precious data (berry size, compactness, conformation and size of a bunch). All these elements give information on the health of the fruit. From there, we can envision a first scenario of the grape yield and the ripening profile of a parcel. In terms of logistics, this data also facilitates interventions in the vinyeard and optimizes the quality of pressing.

We could predict the intensity notes, help the growers during the winemaking process.

Tristan Rousselle, Founder & Deputy CEO at Aryballe

Winegrowers will be able to apply AI in winemaking whether it is against rot (botrytis cinerea). AI also open huge fields in the accompaniment of oenoligists towards the sustainability (from one vintage to another) and the character of the wine.

Campari, for example, has achieved consistent product quality (bourbon and vodka) using Rockwell Automation‘s solution.

Not to mention that winemaking is a sophisticated microbial process. By controlling biodiversity, this quantitative method would accompany the fermentation stage. Winegrowers, as ultimate decision-makers, will help AI to give direction to the winemaking process, better controlled.

With AI, winemakers will be able to anticipate possibilities of intervention on the tank. Moreover, if winegrowers want to work on the aromatic structure of the wine, they will be able to retrieve a considerable amount of information with these pre-analysis tools. Winegrowers will be able to make more informed decisions about the flavors, texture, tannins… that they want to incorporate into a bottle.

“Consumers need to regain confidence, not to be disappointed from one vintage to another, from one vineyard to another, from one appellation to another. This trust, this relationship is essential. The AI of the customer relationship (professionals and individuals) will enable the winegrowers to delegate the order taking, the transport management, the answers to the consumers’ questions. They will be able to focus on what they love most: working in the vineyard, making their wine.” – David BECK

2. AI for Producers / Mass market – the virtual sommelier: it’s over before starting

The emerging AI technology helps food and beverage companies manage their supply chain through logistics, predictive analytics and transparency. AI can also enable marketers and organizations to reach customers on a personal level, engage in deeper interactions, and improve their overall brand experience. AI can help analyzing, monitoring, and inferring customer behavior and sentiment.

Here is a list of AI applications for the Food & Beverage industry:

  • food sorting
  • quality control and safety compliance
  • consumer engagement
  • production and packaging
  • maintenance.

The Rastal Smartglass opens up a whole host of new opportunities for the beverage industry, bars and restaurants as well as final consumers. It is a drinking glass which is fitted with an NFC (Near Field Communication). Each NFC chip has its own unique ID meaning directly with a reader chip. The data can be transferred wirelessly into the cloud. The platform analyzes the data and can process the type and number of drinks ordered, as well as times they were ordered. The established data enable users not only to understand the current status quo but also to better plan work schedules by deciding extra servers should be on the floor.

“I think the virtual sommeliers (a.k.a chatbots) offered by retailers and restaurants will soon be replaced by generative AI. There is still an entry cost to accessing AI technology for the public. These ‘intelligence’ know so little about you and have no way to really know you expect to be permanently connected to your shopping list for single people – in a family, it’s not easy to know who ate what, when and if it was enjoyed or not.

The AI embedded in your phones (Siri, Alexa…) are still not very present in everyday life. People are not yet ready for an optimal use of these AI in the form of a virtual twin. We should not scare the general public by launching things too quickly. The fact is that only your life companion – as the Samsung S4 advert to sell these smartphones said – could offer optimal personalization to your needs in all circumstances. Other AI-specific apps will have to plug in.

Large volume wine marketers (50% of American wines in the US are produced by 3 wine industry leaders) will perhaps be a concern for the development of AI for the general public. The transparency and learning assistance of sensory AI could break part of their business model, if these AI manage to emerge and pass the barriers to entry.

Will subscription-based box sales players be able to resist sensory AI? Of course… not! When all consumers will be able to use personalization via their own sensory AI, all these business models will not exist anymore. These players will have to evolve quickly… start evolving their business model now.” – David BECK

3. AI for Prestige wine producers – pricing is the key

Wine is a cultural product. Another aspect of wine is the speculative and financial side that is an integral part of this field, a quotation in the same way as works of art. In front of all these aspects, AI will be able to support tasting, to convert a customer by bringing personalized advice. Here is an overview of the latest advances in the field. AI techniques can offer an analysis of the price variation of fine wines and predict the fluctuation over the new few years.

I believe that an AI tool could replace the wine critics for the primeur. Besides, this technology would be adapted to the customer’s profile.

Gerard Spataforia, Managing Director at E-Studi’OZ

Let’s tale the example of La Place de Bordeaux:

From April to June, each year Bordeaux goes into effervescence. It is the Primeurs campaign. This is the time when wines, still maturing in their oak barrels, are tasted by professionals, journalists, experts. Everyone can form an opinion on the quality of coming wines. The wine experts give scores to each chateau. The chateaux announce the ‘en primeur’ price of their wines. This price enable merchants to immediately buy the wines and resell to professionals and individuals.

The price of a wine is based on: reputation, age, quality of the vintage (as seen by the top experts), and the intrinsic quality of the wine (scored by the experts).

At the end, it is always a question of new generations

What is the real impact of new technologies on coming generations? Gen Z – born between 1995 to 2010 – represent 32% of the world population. They are more hooked on electronic devices and virtual spaces than any other group so far. For starters, there is the issue of communication which is not insignificant to many of us. While largely accustomed to digital communication tools, Generation Z actually prefer face-to-face communication. The reverse is true for Millenials who prefer digital platform to communicate.

One of the most overlooked issues today is how Gen Z is trying to avoid the economic pitfalls that Millenials have become in. Generation Z is more invested in using new technologies to check out the best economic options, from researching the best price before purchasing.

While Gen Z’ constant immersion in technology may seem like a boon in terms of adapting to current cultural and social changes, the realty is almost counter-intuitive. Gen Z approach new technology as an extension of themselves rather than an addiction or compulsion.

In a world where everyone has a platform on social networks, many Gen Z want to stand out the crowd and feel unique”, say strategy consulting firm OC & C, which conducted a large study in 9 countries (15,500 participants). “Nearly a fifty of Gen Z surveyed prefer to spend on experiences rather than products. […] This thirst for experience seems to be partly correlated with less materialism and concern for sustainability.

Who are your customers in the coming years? The new generation is all about technology.

Charles Slocum, CBO of Tastry

“A mixture of sadness, anger, frustration is inherent to human nature. Nevertheless, AI will soon remove this negative emotion for the buyer. The sadness and anger will no longer exist when tasting a wine that does not suit you.

IT is a bit like learning. Nowadays we are more inclined to protect ourselves against information overload and its corollaries (communication deception, marketing nudge, fake news, the attention economy…). While for my generation and previous, information and knowledge as a luxury, It was necessary to search, to find out, to make mistakes to learn.

The digital twin of the new generations will be able to predict, to help learning, avoiding bias of the overloaded information. The different forms of AI I have analyzed on this series of articles will disrupt our life, our consumption pattern and thus the current consumerism ecosystem. The king is dead. Long live the king! – David BECK