Artificial intelligence and Wine Tastings

Artificial intelligence (AI) is slowly becoming a part of our everyday lives. Can Artificial Intelligence taste wine for us?

xtraWine has decided to explore whether one day al algorithms will taste wines for us and what we need to consider before blindly converting to AI.

AI algorithms are so pervasive and they are well known. We know they are everywhere already, even if we don’t necessarily see it.

As an example, let’s think about the advertising that you see on websites. Programmatic marketing now allows for the serving of ads based on your past interests (up to 90 days nonetheless) and browsing activity. Of course, things are slowly changing due to GDPR, but algorithms are becoming increasingly present in our lives. Even if we do not seem to see it, whenever we are recommended something, we are using algorithms and, increasingly, intelligent agents that detect what we would like to see, when, and how.

That’s basic AI at work.

artificial intelligence wine

Artificially Intelligent wine tasting?

The world of wine has long been interested in artificial intelligence. From the applications of AI into the After all, tasting wine is a very humanistic experience. It involves the use of all of your senses, which means that AI can’t replicate the experience or the results.


That may not be the case anymore, as recent research from the United States suggests.

The AI with 95% Tasting Accuracy

Much of the fun of wine tasting comes from how you learn as you go. Your palate slowly develops over time to the point where you’re able to pick out specific notes in a wine. Eventually, some get so good that they can even point out what grapes are present in the wine and even where it comes from.

But researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NSIT) have managed to boil all of that learning down into an intelligent AI designed for wine tasting. And that AI is able to identify the wines it “tastes” with 95% accuracy.

That’s practically sommelier levels of wine knowledge.

So, how does it work?

Before they could ask their AI to start telling them about the wines it tasted, the researchers first had to teach it. This is an element of all AI work. The algorithm behind the machine has to ‘learn’. In this case, the researchers trained the AI’s palate using a database of 148 wines from three different grapes, catalogued by 13 characteristics. Among such characteristics we have levels of alcohol, colour, ash, alkalinity, and magnesium levels.

Take it from us @xtrawine: this experiment is limited. The database was too limited and therefore, more data will be needed. Nevertheless, the more data we add, the more the algorithm will have a higher probability to make a mistake and taste the wine the wrong way.

Humans tend to experience wine in more amorphous ways. Nonetheless, algorithms lack the emotional intelligence that distinguishes wine.

Using the data it compiled from the original input, the AI managed to identify the wines it tasted with 95.3% accuracy, very high because of the small dataset and the limited number of categories that it then went on to ‘taste’.

What Does This Mean for Wine Tasting?

It’s important to point out that the researchers behind this project note that their AI is not intended to replace sommeliers. As such, we’re unlikely to see a wave of virtual sommeliers entering restaurants in the coming years, Instead, these tests were designed to see how the AI could react to fairly complex tests, with the results potentially being used for future projects at a larger scale. Speculatively, these results show the AI could be used for anything from smart clothing projects to miniature drones. The research also shows that the AI is capable of processing data derived from a source that it can then apply to things it has never seen before.

So, we may see some variation of this technology achieve different types of uses. But when it comes to replacing sommeliers, or simply replacing your own ability to taste wine, an NSIT physicist named Brian Hoskins explains why that’s very unlikely:

“It’s a virtual wine tasting, but the tasting is done by analytical equipment that is more efficient but less fun than tasting it yourself.”

That mention of “fun” tells you all that you need to know.

As we said at the top of the article, wine tasting is a sensory experience that involves learning and enjoying different wines. As you taste more wines, you essentially act in the same way as the AI because you’re gathering data that you’ll use for future tastings. The key difference is that you can physically taste and enjoy the wine, rather than reducing it to a series of data points that, though accurate, sap all of the fun out of enjoying wine.

Taste Your Wines for Yourself with Xtrawine

The good news is that machines aren’t going to be taking over the concept of tasting wine anytime soon. As you’ve gathered from this article, the technology used for these wine tastings boils wine down into categories. While certainly interesting, an AI can’t replicate the joy or fun that comes from drinking and learning about wine.

But you certainly can.

We’re dedicated to ensuring you have access to as many remarkable Italian wines as possible. Our extensive collection features hundreds of wines from every Italian region, in addition to a selection of great wines from all over the world. We’re here to help you gather data of your own, so check out our selection today and get tasting!


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