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TRENDING SCIENCE: What does fine wine taste like after more than a year in space?

Experts sampled prestigious French wine that spent 14 months orbiting Earth.

Fundamental Research

Joining fruit flies, monkeys, dogs and pizza, it was wine’s turn to travel to the final frontier. In 2019, 12 bottles of French wine were sent to the International Space Station (ISS). It’s not just any wine. The famous Château Pétrus is one of the most expensive in the world. A bottle goes for about EUR 5 000.

To boldly go where no other wine has gone before

“The main reason for going to space was, in fact, to see how the aging process is working and how we can influence the aging process,” space biologist Dr Michael Lebert, who assisted in planning the experiment, told ‘Euronews’. “For that, we need to know how the aging process is working. And the only way to find out the role of certain substances is to go under conditions where you can exclude these workings of these substances, for example, oxygen.” After a 438-day and 19-hour stay on the ISS in zero gravity, the wine was back on Earth for a blind taste test by connoisseurs in Bordeaux, France. The tasters weren’t told they would be sampling a wine from outer space. Their objective was to determine whether it tasted, smelled and looked different compared to bottles that never left our planet. One of the bottles was sampled alongside a bottle from the same vintage stored in a cellar on Earth. Both terrestrial and celestial wines remained sealed in special containers and kept at just under 18 °C. “I have tears in my eyes,” Nicolas Gaume, CEO and co-founder of Space Cargo Unlimited, the European start-up that organised the experiment, told the ‘Associated Press’ when he uncorked the bottles.

Did the wine taste out of this world?

According to the wine experts, the space wine tasted like rose petals and smelled like a campfire. “For me, the difference between the space and earth wine ... it wasn’t easy to define,” commented agronomist and oenologist Franck Dubourdieu, who is an expert in the study of wine and winemaking. “I found there was a difference in both color and aromatics and also in taste,” wine expert Jane Anson, who also writes for Decanter, the world’s bestselling wine magazine, told ‘CNN’. “It just felt a little bit older, a bit more evolved than the wine that had remained on Earth. … It’s definitely not everyday that you get asked to taste a wine that has been in space. If you were going to drink it tonight, then probably the one that had been in space is a bit more ready to drink. It was a bit more open.” The wine aged up to three years faster in zero gravity than the bottles stored on Earth. Researchers at Space Cargo Unlimited now want to know why and how the wine aged quicker. “Even if it is still premature to provide scientific conclusions, however these first observations validate the uniquely innovative approach of Space Cargo Unlimited, which consists both of using space as a new research environment for the future of agriculture, and capitalizing on the vine and wine, which are an incredible medium for scientific research, as Pasteur demonstrated in the past,” Gaume and fellow co-founder Emmanuel Etcheparre explained in ‘Forbes’.

Keywords

wine, Château Pétrus, Chateau Petrus, Space Cargo Unlimited, space, Bordeaux