Be under no illusion, tech is taking over. From the precious soils that make up the terroir of Cognac to the bar where your cocktail is created, robots are firmly entrenched in the mix.

A robot at work in the vineyard.

Love it or hate it, technology (AI, high tech, machines, computers, or however you want to label it) is here to stay. And sure, Cognac is all about tradition and age-old methods. But there’s nothing in the rule book about not embracing cutting-edge innovation to—well—make the process run that little bit more efficiently.

1. Meet Ted: The Rémy Martin agriculture robot prowling the terroir

No—it’s not April the 1st… Ted is real. And he’s Remy’s latest secret weapon. Developed by Naïo Technologies in Toulouse, France, Ted the agricultural robot literally weeds the vineyards. Oh, and he prunes the vines as well. These tasks, as you can imagine, are hugely labor intensive when carried out by human hand.

He can have a job in our garden anytime…

The Ted Robot. Photo courtesy of Rémy Martin

2. Attack of the Cognac drones

You only need to take a drive into the Cognac countryside to realize quite how extensive the footprint of the vineyards really is. Drone technology is being utilized big time, with farmers and Cognac producers able to monitor huge expanses of vines, thanks to those annoying, buzzing agri-robots up above. Drones also assist in disease detection of grapes and vines and mean that such issues can be spotted and quickly dealt with.

A drone.

3. Sensory perception and AI in Cognac

Both in the vineyard and via satellite (yes, really!) Such ag-tech is already commonplace throughout the Cognac region, and can monitor key environmental factors (temperature, humidity etc.) within the vineyards, and the micro-climates that make grapes in one field develop in a different manner to their neighbors.

A space satellite.

4. BNIC weather stations in the vineyard

It hasn’t taken long for Cognac growers region-wide to get used to these clever little weather stations, courtesy of the BNIC. And never are they more loved than during the fickle weather of the Cognac harvest. Each and every day the BNIC posts the current méteo — the weather forecast, and various other Intel that’s been gathered by these uber-intelligent tech stations placed strategically throughout the terroirs.

5. The Hennessy bottling plant robot

The biggest of the Cognac houses have automated their distilling and bottling procedures. Hennessy’s new bottling plant in Pont Neuf, Cognac, that opened in 2017 makes full use of the latest in cutting edge tech. More bottles, less labor intensive—it all equals more profits for the Cognac giant.

Pont Neuf bottlling plant. Photo courtesy of Hennessy.

And now? Well, it starts to get really weird…

6. Make mine a Cognac cocktail, please, Mr. Robot

Yes, robot bartenders are real! And it all started as a fun project at the Google I/O developer’s conference. Makr Shakr is a cocktail robot who’ll make your drink for you, complete with mixing, shaking, pouring, and garnishing. Using the Makr Shakr app you select (or create your own) a cocktail. Click the order button, and the robot will whir into life.

The Makr Shakr cocktail robot app interface.
A cocktail making robot.

Kinda takes the fun out of flirting with the hot bartender though, don’t you think?

And then, a thought so awful we hardly dare express it…

7. Could AI even take over the role of the cellar master?

The skill of the cellar master is legendary, and one that takes years to hone. Indeed, rookie members of Hennessy’s fabled tasting committee aren’t even allowed to talk or comment during sessions for the first five years! That’s how intricate learning the art really is. But as AI advances, is there any chance this ability could be mimicked by artificial intelligence.I

We’re not going to try and predict the future. But 40 years ago the idea that everyone would sport a portable device that could seamlessly connect with people on the other side of the world in real time? Well, that was the stuff of sci-fi movies.

What’s going to unfold in the years to come is anyone’s guess. Just don’t say we didn’t tell you when your next cocktail is served up courtesy of Bumblebee or C3PO…

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Jacki has been with Cognac Expert from virtually the beginning. She's the senior editor of the blog, and has spent much of her life living in rural France. Today she's based back in the UK, where she splits her working life between writing for Cognac Expert and working as a Paramedic at a large regional hospital.

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