Wine that's made it to space

Why send wine into space?
30 March 2021


Pouring a glass of red wine


To outer space now, and Adam Murphy’s been looking at some wine that’s been boldly going when no wine has gone before...

Adam - Getting an experiment to space and back again is good cause for celebration. The kind of occasion that calls for opening a nice bottle of wine.

It’s doubly good then, if that experiment was a bottle of wine. Or a dozen bottles of wine. 12 bottles, and 320 little vine shoots have just come back from the ISS after spending a year in space. The bottles were Chateau Petrus 2000, a wine very much in the bracket of “if you have to ask for the price, you can’t afford it.” But since you’re asking it’s about 5000 euro.

The kind that would be wasted on the likes of me, who’s preferred wine is “the one with the sale sticker on it". This is an experiment being run by the Institute of Vines, Science and Wine in France, along with Space Cargo Unlimited. The idea was to see if aging happened any differently in space, to down on the ground. When it was tasted, some claimed the wine that had been into space tasted “younger” than the one on Earth, but others still said it was incredibly hard to tell them apart. When I’m given wine it just tastes….fermented grapes?

There is a reason to the space wine though. Here on Earth, when the wine is sitting there aging, there will be movement of liquid in the bottle. It’s called convection. Warmer liquid rises up, and cooler liquid goes down. This mixes around the oxygen in the bottle, and ingredients reacting with that, age the wine. But in space, up and down don’t really apply when there’s no gravity. So convection doesn’t really happen. So the rates of reaction in the wine change. The vines that came back all seemed to survive though, and are apparently growing faster back on Earth. Which, if I was a plant I’d rather grow down here too.

That’s all part of a plan to come up with more resistant vines. You send them boldly going when no grape vine has gone before, and they have to adapt to a whole host of changes that they never would. Then when they come back, maybe one of those changes helps them be more resilient to temperature, or a disease. At least you get a better understanding of how the plants adapt. Which is helpful for all agriculture really.

And if nothing else comes from it, at least there's some people who can say they got to drink space wine.


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