Pairing AI with business for an enhanced experience

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk

Founded in 2013, Cru World Wines represents the vision of its co-founders Simon Farr and Jeremy Howard, who share the desire to harness new technology to improve the experience of fine wine collectors. Since then, they have grown into a leading full-service marketplace for acquiring, trading, and managing wine and spirits collections, and are now serving markets around the world, including Singapore and Hong Kong.

Today, they have become the world’s first fine wine company to integrate artificial intelligence (AI), specifically ChatGPT, onto its platform. SMEhorizon speaks about this pairing with for Jeremy Howard, CEO and Co-Founder, Cru World Wine, who discusses how AI has benefitted his business, as well as its potential for other industries.

Jeremy Howard, CEO and Co-Founder, Cru World Wine

Could you tell us more about the clients that Cru World Wine serves?

Jeremy Howard: Most of our clients are within the High Net Worth sector, especially when it comes to investing in the top fine wines. However, we are also gradually seeing more retail clients who are keen on finding out more on fine wines in general – and that is what we intend to do so too, by democratising fine wines and making them more accessible to the masses, especially so in Asia Pacific (with Singapore and Hong Kong being our two key markets).

What inspired you to incorporate AI into the platform, and how does it enhance its function?

JH: Prior to our implementation of ChatGPT, we had to manually input all the information of over 20,000 products into our system, which is a huge task, especially with the information changing all the time.

This way, clients can engage with our platform organically, asking the exact questions they want, with the information already automatically updated whenever it changes on a public data source.

In addition, we have also pre-populated the function with 3 or 4 specific questions which tend to come up over and over again, such as ‘which food pairs well with this wine? Tell me a bit more about the producer? Who is the winemaker of this wine?

These questions tend to help prompt our clients learn more about the wines while also suggesting any other relevant ones. 

Could you tell us about the use of technology to authenticate and ensure the legitimacy and records of fine wine as an investment?

JH: According to a recent IBM study, 71% of the consumers stated that traceability of fine wines and spirits is important, and they are willing to pay a premium for platforms that provide it.

For us at Cru World Wine, we are able to enhance our anti-counterfeit checks and provide supply chain traceability to buyers which allow them to understand the true story and value of the wine, whether for investing or consumption.

Quality control over condition and provenance is critically important. Fine wine over a certain value is routinely ‘condition checked’ in our warehouses.  This involves opening the case, inspecting and photographing the bottles, and checking for any defects. These condition reports are available to view on our web platforms.

How else can AI, blockchain and wider technologies such as cybersecurity and cloud be applied to various parts of the fine wine and investing sectors?

JH: AI can have a big role in dissemination of information about fine wines and spirits. There are a huge number of producers which are impossible to keep track of manually, and so tools like ChatGPT, which is now integrated into all Cru’s platforms, is hugely useful for giving our clients exactly what they want.

In 2022, we conducted a large pilot study to asses the suitability of blockchain technology for supply chain management in fine wine. Our pilot consisted of a Polygon (EVM compatible) blockchain onto which we uploaded real products and attempted to trace them through the supply chain.

What we found was that the technology worked well, but that the physical warehouse network which backs the fine wine markets was not yet capable of adopting and using this technology, which applies very strict protocols on process actions.  So we have not yet been able to implement this across our network, but we look forward to doing so in the future. 

Where do you see AI going from here?

JH: There is limitless potential with AI. For a start, we are working on another (related) project to merge our existing manually answered chat box with AI answers.

AI has almost limitless potential in fine wine. I see the most potential future benefit in investment analysis. The expected performance of fine wines is a very complex calculation involving the age of the wine (older is more valuable), the scores given by critics (the higher the scores the better, but some critics carry more authority than others) and the prestige of the producer and a number of other factors.  These are very difficult for humans to assimilate (given the large number of variables).

My hope is that we can harness AI to analyse past performance of wines, against the input variables, and train it to spot great investment opportunities. 

Which other traditional or lesser known industries will benefit from this?

JH: The AI framework identified above would be useful for any collectible asset category. The same challenges and opportunities exist in the fine art markets, in areas like vintage cars, handbags, stamps and coins. Even baseball (or any other collectible) cards!  

Wherever there are huge and disorganised data sets, AI is much better placed than humans to make sense of it.