Summer is drawing closer and the temperatures are already quite promising. Nothing is built to last and more rain has already been forecast, so let’s look at the past, present and future of wine in this week’s JollyCellarMaster weekly:
Are we going to witness the end of the sommeliers? Well…
A thirsty emperor
A 200-year-old bottle of Grand Constance 1821 this week changed hands when it was sold at the Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auction for €25,000. It’s not just the age of the bottle that makes it so remarkable (and pricy): apparently, it was destined to become part of the exclusive collection of Napoleon Bonaparte himself when the former emperor was seeing out his days pm St. Helena and was promised the provision of one bottle a day of Grand Constance for five years. However, Napoleon couldn’t drink all that fine wine himself as he died while the grapes were still on the vine, which only made the recent sale possible. Funny how things sometimes go in life, isn’t it?
The Path to the Future
The consortium Alto Adige Wines has published its Agenda 2030, which focuses on a fully sustainable wine production. It’s an ambitious project, but according to the consortium’s president, Maximilian Niedermayr, something that isn’t purely a strategy on paper but supported by concrete measures. A report outlines South Tyrol’s path into the future is based on five pillars – soil, vines, wine, people, province – that together from the framework for a sustainable future. It comes at an interesting point of time, when the wine industry finds itself facing various challenges – from climate change, to changing consumer demands, to the effects of the Covid pandemic. Speaking of Covid, the Italian industry body published an estimate that sees a drop in HoReCa earnings by a whopping €1.5 bn for 2020. Talking of challenges…
And lastly, is the end really neigh?
Before you get your heart racing, the profession of sommeliers has been proclaimed dead before and still has never been so popular as today, it seems, so we can approach the news that computers are to replace our taste buds and noses in the immediate future more relaxed than the title or the article it refers to indicates. What’s the story though? Well, a startup from California has apparently taught a computer to taste wine by analyzing thousands of compounds in large amounts of wines with artificial intelligence. The objective isn’t to replace sommeliers as such though but to use the insights to help winemakers and retailers target their products more effectively. In doing so, the company hopes to tell them what consumers want and how to achieve it. Naturally, this has seen a bit of backfire from an industry that is steeped in tradition and personally, I am always concerned about the emotional element that is so important in wine, but there is something to say for the use of technology and how it has improved wine in general over the course of wine. And the use of sensors and analytics isn’t particularly new either. It’s more the use of AI to go through heaps of data and to find useful aspects as part of the exercise. So maybe we shouldn’t outright condemn the idea but look into it a little more in detail. At least, I’m sure I will and once I’ve done it, I’ll make sure I’ll let you know, so stay tuned.
Until then, that’s all for this week, but if you have an interesting story, connect on Twitter and if you want to stay in the loop about things happening at the JollyCellarMaster and the world of wine, make sure you sign up to our newsletter. And if you want to come on the show and talk about wine, make sure you drop us a line.
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