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Analytics, Technology, and Vineyards

What do you know about analytics? 

I’m a football junkie and its fun to watch analytics slowly transform the football landscape. The latest Super Bowl champions (the Philadelphia Eagles) were not the most talented team but used analytics to give them a decisive edge. I’ve got friends that follow the NBA and they’ll tell you that, like in baseball, analytics have completely changed how basketball is scouted and played. And while my hockey agent friend will tell you that the NHL has been slow to adopt analytics, the Toronto Maple Leafs just hired analytics whiz-kid Kyle Dubas as their GM.

Or maybe you’ve heard of Moneyball, popularized by Michael Lewis and mythologized by Brad Pitt.

Brad gets it.

Analytics, simply put, is the application of statistical techniques to sports to tease out unobserved cognitive biases and non-obvious statistical relationships to give teams a competitive advantage. In football, analytics tell us that teams should pass more often on 1st down and go for 2 -point conversions more often. They help determine which players have a higher chance of being successful players.

The same thing is happening within viticulture.

New technologies are transforming the information and decision-making for vineyards. Drones and NDVI, all the new sensor applications, machine learning, or new mass spectrometers allowing us to measure into the parts per trillion (allowing the creation of our bioavailability sampling).

A mass spec machine

Yet, just like sports and analytics, you can go to far. There is no new technology that tells you exactly what’s going on within a vineyard. Like we joke with our EC surveying until you do some digging all you’ve got is a pretty map. Analytics don’t replace the artistry of building a vineyard – you still have to know the soil and the climate and the plants – you can’t escape knowing terroir.

Instead what these new technologies do is give new insight. They allow us to examine our assumptions and cognitive biases (we often don’t realise we have) to have healthier vines and greater wine.

In embracing these technologies we’re not replacing ourselves but augmenting. Like in Moneyball we’re moving beyond only visual observations and habitual clichés and seeing our team (vineyard) more deeply. We’re not just swinging for the fences but getting on base – and methodically getting to home plate.

It’s an exciting time to be making wine.

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