Pétrus in space

After 438 days in space, the iconic Bordeaux tastes different but still great.

 Pétrus has visited the ISS / Credit: dimazel Adobe Stock
Pétrus has visited the ISS / Credit: dimazel Adobe Stock

One of the most expensive red wines in the world, a 2000 Bordeaux from Châteaux Pétrus, has returned safely to Earth after a 438-day journey into space. Since their return, the twelve extraterrestrial bottles have been tasted, analysed and researched in the laboratory, as French media report. The first results were presented today.

The private space research programme called Wise (Vitis Vinum in Spatium Experimentia) was carried out by Space Cargo Unlimited. Co-founders Nicolas Gaume and Emmanuel Etcheparre established the start-up company in Luxembourg in 2014. Gaume also holds the position of director of strategic partnerships at Microsoft. Etcheparre is the founder of the social network Wine Alley.

Exploring space effects on wine

The aim of the space mission is to study the effects of microgravity and space radiation on the most important components of wine.
The project was supported by cnes, ESA, NASA, Thales Alenia Space and the American company Nanoracks, which sent the precious cargo to the ISS in November 2019. The bottles returned from their weightless journey at an altitude of 450 km on 14 January aboard a Dragon capsule chartered by SpaceX.

In the meantime, they are back in Bordeaux, where they have been analysed against a wine "left on the ground" at the Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences (ISVV). The preliminary result: "Unanimously, these two wines were rated as very great wines, which means that the stay in space had no influence on the quality. However, differences in colour, persistence of aromas and taste were noted," La Tribune quotes Philippe Darriet, head of the oenology research department at the ISVV. "These differences need to be further investigated through the study of other samples and through the scientific study of about a hundred components that characterise wine."

Multinational project

The Space Cargo Unlimited idea, with six staff, is supported by some twenty partner researchers in France (Bordeaux and Toulouse), Italy (Turin) and Germany (Erlangen). The aim, they say, is to study the development of the entire cycle of the vine and wine under the extraordinary conditions and thus achieve long-term benefits for terrestrial conditions.

"What I can say is that gravity and the absence of gravity are still poorly known phenomena, and this knowledge is always useful, especially in the current time of climate change. The fact that we chose wine is no coincidence because the vine is one of the first plants to feel and suffer the effects of climate change," Gaume explained.

In two previous missions, the start-up sent wine cells and vine shoots into space. Currently, they are being cultivated in Bordeaux for research. The next wine-in-space mission is planned for 2022 and will focus on the process of wine fermentation. itp

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