How a Ludwigshafen startup is seeking to use AI to transform the world of wine

The startup Genie Enterprise of Ludwigshafen wants to combine personal enjoyment of wine with artificial intelligence and thus make the experience of wine even better – and the technology behind this venture is also helping companies to efficiently comb through mountains of files.

In the beginning, there was the wine. Ever since Regina Keßler moved to Rhineland-Palatinate, she wanted to know more about the vine varieties, the grapes, and the finished product. As a trainee, the native of Thuringia liked wine, but she never knew exactly why she liked a particular kind. Then she met her husband, an artificial intelligence (AI) expert with an enthusiasm for new ideas. Keßler got trained as a sommelier and founded a startup that aims to revolutionize the wine market.


„We want to drive the digital transformation of the German wine industry“


On a hot Thursday in July 2023, the exterior blinds of the Ludwigshafen Technology Center have been lowered. The exposed yellow steel beams of the building’s interior exude industrial chic, while the rest of the office has a rather austere look. Regina Keßler leads the way through the premises, monitors with black backgrounds visible everywhere. The screens display numbers and letters, code, and data, all of it incomprehensible to the uninitiated. Genie Enterprise, with its nine employees, aims to use data to change the world of wine. The startup wants to use AI to take the production, trade, and enjoyment of wine to a new level.

“We want to drive the digital transformation of the German wine industry,” Thomas Kessler says. He serves as the company’s technical specialist and has been working with AI for decades. Along with the data experts led by AI Team Lead Muhammad Bilal, he is researching how sensor systems, AI, and wine can converge. The company received a lot of support from the state of Rhineland-Palatinate during its initial phase, including funding for research and innovation and assistance with networking. The Keßlers traveled to New York, for instance, with the “Step USA Program,” and they remain in contact with the companies that traveled with them. “Experiences like that bind people together and strengthen the network,” Regina Keßler says.

Along with many other Rhineland-Palatinate stakeholders, Genie Enterprise is integrated into the “Pinot” research project, which involves the development of AI for oenological technology. “The aim is for the AI to enhance human perception of the sensory input from the nose, mouth, and tongue,” Thomas Keßler explains. This can help wine drinkers find an alternative to their favorite wine and assist retailers in selecting the assortment. Winemakers might also benefit from the technology, as AI could soon make it possible for them to objectively and digitally track flavor and aroma throughout the process, from the grape harvest to the final product.

The Keßlers and their team wanted to launch their digital sommelier, WineGenie, in the United States in 2020. “We were ready to conquer the US,” Regina Keßler says. Pilot customers were lined up. In the large wine shops and specialty stores, you would enter your taste preferences in a brief questionnaire on a tablet, and the system would suggest suitable wines.

However, the coronavirus pandemic thwarted these plans. Companies put a halt to new projects, and restaurants suddenly had completely different concerns. “From one day to the next, we had to find a way to earn money in a manner different than what we originally planned,” says Regina Keßler. Networking allowed her to find a runoff insurance company that was looking for AI-driven assistance with the evaluation of contracts. Poring through hundreds of pages of text would be a tedious task for clerks but a job that could be completed in a matter of seconds by GenieReader, another ingenious invention of Genie Enterprise.


„We want to combine craftsmanship with cutting-edge technology – for better wine and thus for better enjoyment“


And the revolution in the wine industry? It’s now finally in the starting blocks again. The first pilot customers will soon be ready in Austria, and a major retail chain has already signaled great interest. If it works out there, WineGenie will soon come to Germany as well. Then sommelier and startup founder Regina Kessler will probably take this as an occasion to pop open a good bottle of wine – a Chablis, perhaps, because that’s what she likes most – and toast the new link established between tradition and technology. “We want to combine craftsmanship with cutting-edge technology – for better wine and thus for better enjoyment,” Keßler says, “because personal taste in wine is as unique and varied as people themselves.”


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