This week, the wine world had its horizons broadened a bit more, as news outlets reported on the opening and tasting of one of the bottles of Merlot that spent 14 months on the International Space Station, and arrived back on Earth just this January. (We reported on the journey and landing here.)
It was also revealed who the lucky, secret vintner was: The venerable Chateau Pétrus, producer of one of the top Bordeaux, who provided a dozen bottles of their year-2000 vintage for spaceflight, and subsequent study at the Institute of Vine and Wine Science (ISVV). The tasting involved opening three of those bottles, and was accomplished by a group of experts, including Jane Anson. Anson subsequently reported to CNN:
“‘I found there was a difference in both color and aromatics and also in taste […] It just felt a little bit older, a bit more evolved than the wine that had remained on Earth,’ she said, adding that the cosmic wine’s tannins were more evolved and it had a more floral character.
The group of experts tasted the wine alongside another glass of the same variety that had stayed on Earth, before being told which was which.
And Anson concluded that its adventure above the stratosphere added about two to three years’ maturity to the drink.”
This past week, Christie’s announced that one of the remaining eight bottles of Pétrus 2000 from the ISS would be sold via its auction services, specially packaged with a twin bottle that stayed on Earth, so the prospective buyer can enjoy a similar compare/contrast tasting experience. As is (unfortunately) typical for most wine-related activities, that taster will have to be ready to drop some serious change: Christie’s anticipates an eventual sale price of £720,000 – or a bananas $1.2 million CAD. (The “regular” price for a bottle of Pétrus 2000 is in the $6000 – $7000 range – and I thought that was high…!)
Now that I’ve been definitively priced out of this tasting, I eagerly await news of the scientific analysis of the seven bottles left. What is the process behind the maturation of the wine – was it the zero-G environment, or heck, cosmic radiation? While the chemist in me waits impatiently for the ISVV to run their tests, my wine enthusiast half must remain satisfied with this brief peek into a very lofty (pun intended!) level of connoisseurship.