How will artificial intelligence impact, or benefit, the (Virginia) wine industry?  

No one knows for sure but let’s ask ChatGPT:

A pretty generic response to be sure but this automated reply was provided within a few seconds and with no additional information or input from me.  

This is the beginning of the beginning of ChatGPT (and for AI in general for mainstream use) so there are many unknowns. 

So, what is ChatGPT?  

According to ChatGPT, it’s ‘a large language model developed by OpenAI. It is trained on a massive dataset of conversational text and can be used to generate human-like responses to text-based prompts. It can be used for a variety of natural language processing tasks such as language translation, text summarization, and question answering.’

Imagine if Alexa or Siri could compile those quarterly reports for you with a one sentence command or write your son/daughter’s college application essay (not an ethical use, of course) or be used to outsource all marketing and customer communications for your winery at no cost?

I’ve been testing ChatGPT since early December for my day job and can hardly believe how advanced and usable it is at such an early stage of development.  I’ve also been thinking about potential applicability to the local wine industry.

I see a lot of upside for savvy wineries!  

I believe AI will be the catalyst for a big paradigm shift — it could/might/may/will streamline marketing and communications for wineries (and all businesses) in ways we can’t fully understand right now.  I believe AI apps like ChatGPT will allow wineries to easily connect with, and market to, ‘ideal’ consumers interested in purchasing their wine. There will be many other potential benefits, too.

We are at the beginning of the beginning. 

Yesterday, Jane Anson, noted writer and author of the authoritative book on Bordeaux, Inside Bordeaux, posted an article written — or, really, edited by Simon Pavitt, about the potential impact of ChatGPT on wine writers and sommeliers (‘ChatGPT and wine: extinction-level event for wine writers and sommeliers?’).

To summarize the article, ChatPGT’s impact on the wine industry: ‘The fine wine industry is one that has traditionally relied on the expertise of human sommeliers and wine connoisseurs to navigate the complex and nuanced world of wine production and consumption. However, with something such as ChatGPT it’s hard to not think that the industry is facing the possibility of a paradigm shift in the way that wine is described, marketed, and sold…’

Mr. Pavitt is spot on!

Following is ChatGPT’s response when I asked ‘What is the best winery in Virginia?’

A solid list considering this response was returned within a few seconds and with no additional input from me.  If I were a winemaker or winery owner, I’d give some thought as to why my winery was not included in this AI-generated list (there is a reason!).

I asked ChatGPT to write a tasting note for Barboursville Vineyards’ 2019 Nebbiolo and received the following response:

Not the most loquacious tasting note but not bad.  

ChatPGT is still in its infancy so there is plenty of room for improvement.  

ChatGPT responded to my question about the best Virginia winemakers with a solid list that included two errors (gasp!) — Veritas Vineyards winemaker Emily Pelton was incorrectly identified as the winemaker at Barboursville Vineyards and Jonathan Wheeler’s (winemaker at Trump Winery) last name was misspelled.  

Even in its infancy, there are so many potential uses of AI in the wine industry. 

I suspect it will be a while before AI and tools like ChatGPT move the needle in the wine industry but smart (Virginia) winery owners will be paying attention to this space.   As of right now, it’s just more of a conversation starter.

Though there are many unknowns about potential uses of AI in the wine industry, one thing is clear, wine writers may be short for the wine world.  Sommeliers (are those still a thing?) won’t be far behind.

I certainly have a few ideas of how AI can benefit Virginia wineries.  Stay tuned…. This is just the beginning of the beginning!