Wine tastes better when it has aged over time, but what about over space? That is the question boffins in Bordeaux will seek to answer when they uncork bottles of wine that have returned to France from a year on the International Space Station (ISS).
The 12 bottles of Bordeaux red wine, encased in protective steel tubes, were blasted into space in December 2019 aboard a Northrop Grumman supply ship. A further 320 Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon vine snippets, known as vine canes, were launched by SpaceX last March.
After a year orbiting Earth in the name of science, both packages were brought back last month on a SpaceX Dragon cargo craft, splashing into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida. The package has now been returned for analysis by a team at the University of Bordeaux’s wine institute, the ISVV.
The wine mission project, led by Luxembourg-based start-up firm Space Cargo Unlimited (SCU), will look at how space radiation and microgravity affect the physics and chemistry of wine components during the aging process. At the end of this month, SCU will uncork a few bottles and invite expert wine tasters to sample the space-aged wine. It will then be followed by months of chemical and biological analysis, comparing the wine against control samples that stayed behind on Earth.
“We’re going to look at everything that has evolved,” SCU CEO and co-founder Nicolas Gaume said. “We’ll do a whole genome sequencing of the plants, to provide a clear view of all the DNA changes that could have happened on the stay on the ISS.”
Mr Gaume, who founded video game company Kalisto Entertainment in the 1990s when he was just 19, describes the absence of gravity as the “ultimate stress”, and the researchers will look at whether the vine canes have adapted or evolved in the new conditions.
“Wine making and maturation is a multi-component biological process involving key elements such as yeast, bacteria, crystals, colloids, and polyphenols,” he said. “Very little is known about how the taste and chemical composition of wine is affected during the ageing process.”
This is not the first Bordeaux in space: French astronaut Patrick Baudry snuck a bottle of 1975 Château Lynch Bages onto the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1985.
This Article firstly Publish on inews.co.uk