Update, March 24, 2021: The space wine has been uncorked! By “space wine,” we are of course referring to one of the 12 bottles of Bordeaux that spent a year aboard the International Space Station, along with 320 snippets of grapevines, to test the effects of a more stressful environment upon our plants and food products. The Associated Press reports that after researchers spent a few months analyzing the bottles after their return from space in January, one (worth about $5,900 even before its historic spaceflight) was opened up and served to 12 connoisseurs at the Institute for Wine and Vine Research in Bordeaux, France earlier this month.
So, how did it taste? Well, the Bordeaux was presented in a blind taste test alongside a bottle of the same vintage that had stayed behind on Earth while its counterpart enjoyed a year of zero-G. Wine expert Jane Anson noted that the Earth wine tasted “a little younger than the one that had been to space.”
“And the one that had been up into space, the tannins had softened, the side of more floral aromatics came out,” Anson said.
The “older” taste of the extraterrestrial bottle makes sense, given what it has been through. “When you expose wine, when you expose cells, plants to an environment without gravity...we create tremendous stress on any living species,” said Nicolas Gaume, CEO and co-founder of Space Cargo Unlimited, the company that had spearheaded the space wine initiative.
Other tasting notes from the panel included “burnt-orange reflections” and aromas of campfire or cured leather. Interestingly, the grapevine snippets that had been sent up with the bottles actually grew faster than their Earthly counterparts, even though they received limited amounts of light and water while aboard the ISS. Once the researchers pinpoint why that is, we could be well on our way to not only flying our wine into space, but growing it up there, too.
Original post, January 15, 2021: A SpaceX Cargo Dragon capsule made its descent from the International Space Station via parachute and successfully came back down to us, bringing back over two tons of experimental items. Among those things included live rodents (I am picturing mice in very small space helmets) and a dozen bottles of space-aged French wine.
This marked the end of a 38-day mission for the Cargo Dragon, the first version of a new design of supply ships created to work with the International Space Station, Spaceflight Now reports. The rodent astronauts were mice involved in eye experiments; scientists wanted to see if any changes occurred in their eyesight, as at least 40% of astronauts report vision issues during long-term space deployments.
Researchers also sent 320 grapevine cuttings in order to see how radiation, low gravity, and the general stress of living in space would affect growth; the ultimate goal is to learn how to grow grapes under more stressful environments here down on Earth.
But we’re really here to talk about the wine. The space-aged wine. Specifically 12 bottles of Bordeaux.
The wine spent over a year on the station, after it was delivered in 2019 by another supply ship. Some of the bottles will be opened for a tasting (of course—who doesn’t want to at least take a sip of space wine), and some will be set aside for research. Scientists plan on studying how the wine aged after 14 months of microgravity. What if it tastes terrible? Like a rotten dirty sock filled with moldy leather and blue cheese, with notes of burnt tobacco and pesticide fumigated plums? I guess we’ll see what happens. Maybe we’ll find out space radiation makes truly magnificent wine, life is full of possibilities. I vote we do milk next.