SCIENCE

Next frontier: French team reveals secrets of wine aged in space

Philippe Darriet, of the French Institute for Wine and Vine Research, at a blind tasting of wine that has been aged in space, in Bordeaux, on 24 March, 2021.
Philippe Darriet, of the French Institute for Wine and Vine Research, at a blind tasting of wine that has been aged in space, in Bordeaux, on 24 March, 2021. AP - Christophe Ena

Zero gravity is no barrier to fine wine say researchers in Bordeaux who tasted a 5,000 euro bottle of Chateau Petrus Pomerol that spent 14 months in space.

Advertising

Snippets of merlot and cabernet sauvignon vines were sent along for the journey to the International Space Station, at an altitude of 400km, as part of an experiment to find solutions to global warming.

Brainchild of the French start up Space Cargo Unlimited, the Mission Wise experiment returned to Earth in January on board the SpaceX Dragon cargo ship. 

Its precious cargo of 12 bottles of wine and 320 vine cuttings was stored at the Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences (ISVV), near Bordeaux, before a tasting crew was this month able to put the wine to the test. 

In results made public Wednesday, it was revealed that a team of amateur and expert oenologists had sampled one of the space-aged bottles, a 2000 vintage Petrus Pomerol, blindly tasting it alongside a bottle from the same vintage that had remained on Earth.

"The stay in space had no detrimental impact on the sensory quality of the wine,” said Philippe Darriet, ISVV’s director of oenology research.

Both were excellent and complex wines, the tasters concluded, although they noticed a difference in colour in the wine that gone to space. Wine expert Jane Anson said the bottle that stayed on Earth had tasted “a little more closed, tannic and younger”.

Climate science

As well as exploring ways to artificially age wine, Mission Wise researchers are studying the effects of microgravity on plants in order to find ways to make them more resilient to climate change.

The wines sent to space grew faster than the vines on Earth, the Associated Press reported, despite being in a weightlessness environment.

"This process and the ageing of wine remain largely a mystery,” said Nicolas Gaume, co-founder of Space Cargo Unlimited.

The “unique characteristics of the space environment”, he added, would help his team continue the work of Louis Pasteur, the founding father of oenology.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning