What's the Next Big Thing for Big Data and Wine? Look Up. Way, Way Up.

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CAPTION: The image above shows Saturnalia’s zoomed-out map of two villages in the Champagne region of France: Bouzy and Ambonnay. Click on any of those parcels of vineyard, and you’re “zoomed in” to variables such as vegetation activity, sun exposure and vigor.

Something I love most about Enolytics are the inquiries we see from other companies, usually startups from outside our industry, who have developed a very cool offering and are looking to see if there’s an application to wine.

I love it because it’s bound to be outside-the-box thinking, and because this kind of creativity is finding its way into wine.

One of the hottest sectors lately in this regard?

Satellites.

Or what’s sometimes called “earth observation technologies.”

Normally this technology is put to use for things like street-level image analysis or image object detection or passive crowdsourcing of information.

So what does it have to do with wine?

It can be applied to crop monitoring, for starters, and chemical analysis after harvest, and quality prediction, all based on data gathered by satellites a few kilometers above us. Last week I sat alongside a venture capitalist at the Tech + Fine Wine breakout session during the Fine Minds 4 Fine Wine conference in Champagne and he's already "bought in" to satellite technology.

Which brings me back to real-world applications for the wine industry.

A few months ago we heard from a company doing this kind of work and we asked them for a demonstration of their capabilities. The company is called Ticinum Aerospace, they’re based in Pavia, near Milan, Italy, and they’ve been winning awards in Europe for their innovations. They are working on a corporate project called Saturnalia, which does exactly what's described above.

As an experiment, they offered to study satellite data analysis of specific vineyard sites in the Champagne region of France, so that we could correlate their satellite data about things like vigor, elevation and grape size with our consumer data about things like ratings, sentiment and price of wines from exactly that same area.

Cool idea, right?

My first thought was about studying consumer responses to vineyard-designated wines, compared to consumer responses to wines sourced from less specific locations. What can the data tell us – satellite data compiled together with consumer data, that is – about whether consumers care if a wine comes from a particular place on the earth?

We're still working through some of this but here's what we know so far, according to Daniele De Vecchi PhD, CTO of Ticinum:

  • The final taste of wine depends on several variables, but space-based monitoring of vineyards plus in-situ recording of environmental conditions goes a long way in predicting how it will perform.
  • Existing weather stations are good, but innovation could take them a step further; Ticinum’s innovative, patent-based weather station is a bit cheaper and a bit smarter than its predecessors, which is a benefit of the wine production chain link by link.
  • Wine tasters and critics do not need to worry about their jobs, but objective wine characterization provides a long-awaited, neutral reference for vendors and buyers alike.

How do these takeaways relate to consumer behavior around the wines produced from these very same vineyards?

That’s what we’ll be exploring in the coming weeks. Please stay tuned, and of course be in touch with any questions or comments in the meantime.

Thank you, as always, for reading –

Cathy