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food / travel

In Northern Italy, The World's First Winemaking Robot

At the futuristic Enosis wine lab, the Genesis robot brings wine into the 21st century.

2015 world's best oenologist Donato Lanati with the Genesis winemaking robot
2015 world's best oenologist Donato Lanati with the Genesis winemaking robot
Miriam Massone

FUBINE — In the heart of northern Italy's famous wine-producing Montferrat area, a World Heritage Site, a robot named Genesis that looks like a cheap version of BB-8 in the new Star Wars toils away. Despite its somewhat unimpressive appearance, Genesis is actually a technological marvel — the only winemaking robot in the world, designed by Donato Lanati, who was named the world's best oenologist in 2015.

"Genesis can carry 200 kilos of grapes and and produce 100 liters of wine," says Dora Marchi, a biologist at Enosis, the sprawling 2,500-square-meter vineyard in the rolling hills of Fubine, where the robot was developed. Housed in a 17th century farmstead, Enosis has 37 different grape varieties and houses a laboratory, university and clinic with 18 wine experts — including biologists, oenologists, cellarers, agronomists, chemists and technicians.

The cone shape of Genesis allows for closer contact between squeezed grapes and the wine. From the robot's central porthole, Enosis experts closely follow the various stages of the winemaking process — from maceration to reassembly to racking. This is the 12th version of the Genesis robot, which provides for a faster process than the traditional method of crushing grapes underfoot, still in use 70 years ago.

Genesis is Lanati's brainchild, and the creation is not up for sale. Lanati's colleagues call him the "wine whisperer" for his groundbreaking research at Enosis, where he has studied grapes for over 40 years. In another machine, technicians observe the weighing, pressing and measurement of grapes to identify each variety's specific DNA.

"It's important because each variety is a synthesis of its region, representing its climate and aroma," says Marchi, Lanati's right hand.

A Tuscan native who left her home two decades ago to help Lanati in his research, Marchi effortlessly moves between the Enosis research halls and labs, all replete with high-tech monitors, fridges and microscopes. She leads us to the "psychedelic" laboratory, nicknamed for its colorful lamps with digital displays that hold grape must and measure its biochemical data 24/7.

For all its technological prowess, Enosis still ages its wines in infernot, Montferrat's traditional cellars carved into tuff rock. As Marchi says, "It's our sign of love for the region."

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