Wine in Space
Twelve bottles of Bordeaux’s finest wine were blasted into space in November
As a child, I always nurtured a secret desire to become a spaceman. As I grew older that dream began to fade and the fact that I never finished high school probably wouldn’t have paved the way to an extraterrestrial career anyway. Last month, all those juvenile dreams of what a spaceman’s life must be like were reignited when I heard that twelve bottles of Bordeaux’s top wine had been placed on a space shuttle and fired off to the International Space Station.
How much more wonderful could life get for these little swots, just because they stuck it out at school while I went off to make my way in the world? Not only did they get to fool around in zero gravity and wear those super cool space suits but soon they would be able to do all this while sipping on my favourite red wine.
A little research soon revealed that the wine was not actually intended for the sipping pleasure of the space crew but was part of an experiment. The Bordeaux University’s Insititute of Vine and Wine, along with some other European Universities, is working with NASA to test the effects of weightlessness on wine. Twelve bottles are tucked away on the Space Station while twelve identical bottles are being set aside on earth so that in one year’s time we can see if there have been any major differences in the way the wines have matured.
The experiment doesn’t end there. Rootstock has also been sent up to see if the growing conditions in space produce any significant advantages. When the idea was first broached, the Institute for Vine and Wine didn’t really take the offer seriously.
They thought it was a bit of a joke until they realized just what an opportunity they were being offered.
The exact cepage and wine estate have been kept a closely guarded secret but the case was launched from NASA’s Wallops facility in Virginia in November aboard a rocket owned by a start-up called Space Cargo Unlimited.
The experiment will hopefully give us some ideas of the effect on crystals and tannins in wine as well as on the yeast and bacteria that influence maturation. In addition to gathering information on how the wine is affected by being in space, it is hoped that winemakers will learn something about what long term global weather change will have on the wine industry.
Bordeaux is probably the most famous wine-producing area in the world and also home to some of the most expensive wines. When you consider that this region produces in excess of 68 million cases of red wine each year it is easy to understand why they are anxious to keep ahead of the learning curve by whatever means possible.