What smells like a campfire, flickers with an auburn hue, and has spent a year in space? It’s the substance that twelve wine connoisseurs have had the opportunity to savor in 2021 for the sake of environmental research. Last year, researchers in Bordeaux, France sent a dozen bottles of wine along with 320 snippets of grapevines to the International Space Station (ISS) for a year. The effects of a zero gravity environment on plants were chosen as testing grounds because in order to future proof improvements and expose the most development potential, it is insightful to experiment with unparalleled conditions. Nicolas Gaume, the CEO of the company Space Cargo Unlimited, that conducted the experiment summarizes the science behind it: “”When you expose wine, when you expose cells, plants to an environment without gravity… we create tremendous stress on any living species”. The twelve bottles of wine were taste tested against one bottle kept in a cellar from the same vintage (Chateau Petrus Pomerol) as a baseline for reference.
Surprisingly, it was difficult for the team to define the exact difference in taste between cosmic and regular wine. Most notably, experts stated that with the cosmic wine, the “floral aromatics” were comparatively stronger, tasting of rose petals and smelling like a campfire or cured leather. Beyond the differences in taste though, a biological analysis reveals that the grapevine snippets not only survived but grew faster than average than vines on Earth. This is strange, as the grapevines in space had limited light and water but researchers are unsure why as of right now. Dr. Lebert, one of the scientists on the mission says that after more analysis, scientists could use this data to develop sturdier vines on earth and potentially begin growing grapes and making wine in space. Further developments with this project could pave the way for artificially aged fine wine in the market, which would affect the current wine business model.
This ingenious method of experimentation is a vital step forward in environmental research, as it not only reveals fascinating aspects of existing life on Earth but also uncovers the unknown possibilities of life in space. The experiment is young and analysis is not yet complete, but the data so far hint at grander innovations beyond the horizon.
Image Description: The International Space Station (ISS) orbiting Earth. This is where 12 bottles of 500 euro wine and 320 grapevines were placed for a year.