AI and wine: A taste of the future?

Graphic of wine glass in robotic hand

At the UK’s AI Safety Summit in 2023, Elon Musk told British prime minister Rishi Sunak that artificial intelligence (AI) was likely to be ‘the most disruptive force in history’. And if you look around you, it isn’t hard to see signs of that disruption already taking place.

We’re eagerly talking away to AI-powered digital assistants such as Siri and Alexa, university lecturers are complaining about students using AI chatbots to write their essays, and fears are growing that a range of jobs – from contract lawyer and computer coder to accountant and even teacher – will either cease to exist or change beyond recognition. Engineering designers are using AI to create new products; architects are using it to design outlandish new buildings and medical researchers are using it to cure disease.

What is AI?

Anthony Aubert with old schoolfriend and now business partner Jean-Charles Mathieu, of Aubert & Mathieu

Anthony Aubert with old schoolfriend and now business partner Jean-Charles Mathieu, of Aubert & Mathieu

Artificial intelligence is an umbrella term for technologies that enable computers to behave as though they are intelligent, using complex algorithms to ‘learn’ how best to process data in order to provide the answer that the user requires. There are different types of AI, but the form that has captured the zeitgeist is known as generative AI, which, as its name suggests, is capable of generating complex outputs such as computer code, paragraphs of text, images or video after being given prompts from a user.

One specific application of generative AI is what’s known as a large language model – an AI that has been trained to learn the patterns and relationships between words and phrases using an enormous language-based dataset, and to use that knowledge to converse with the user. Google’s Gemini (known as Bard until early February 2024) and OpenAI’s ChatGPT are two of the best- known large language model-based AI platforms.

It’s true that there are broader concerns globally and much debate regarding the direction of travel of AI as a whole and its potentially serious impact on vital areas such as employment, privacy, data storage and misinformation. Indeed, ChatGPT’s maker Sam Altman is rarely seen without his infamous blue backpack – there is speculation that it holds a laptop on which are the codes necessary to shut down the ChatGPT AI servers if it should ever run out of control.

But what do such wider issues have to do with wine? AI has already infiltrated many aspects of both viticulture and winemaking. It’s already at home in vineyards, helping to predict irrigation requirements, pick fruit, prune vines and detect vine diseases. And in cellars, winemakers are able to use AI-powered systems to monitor and adjust fermentation conditions in real time.

Languedoc producer Aubert & Mathieu recently took things a step further by producing a wine under the instruction of ChatGPT, right down to the name and label. ‘We are a new brand, only five years old, and it’s in our roots to be adventurous and try new things,’ says co-owner Anthony Aubert.

‘We wanted to do something with ChatGPT, because people are talking about it. I opened an account and said, “Let’s make a wine in the south of France”, telling it that we had organic Syrah and Grenache grapes available’. The AI offered basic winemaking advice, which was adjusted by a human winemaker, as well as suggestions for the wine’s name, label design and marketing plan, including presenting it in a Burgundy-style bottle ‘because it’s more prestigious’.

The result was a wine the AI chose somewhat ominously to name ‘The end’, which Aubert suggests could be read as a tongue-in-cheek take on robots putting an end to the roles of humans, something that he feels is unlikely to happen. ‘It will never replace winemakers or marketeers, but you have to know how to use it,’ he says. The price range suggested by the AI was thought to be too high, and the wine is now available on their website aubertetmathieu.com at €29.90.


Source : https://www.decanter.com/wine/ai-and-wine-a-taste-of-the-future-523210/