Alcohol in space is a common basis for all sorts of PR stunts these days. However, the pursuit of imbibing in orbit finally moved into the realm of hard facts this week.
Finally, we have an idea of what time in orbit does to the flavor of libations. A team of experts just sampled space Bordeaux head-to-head with earthbound bottles.
According to NASA’s mission brief, the Bordeaux, including coveted bottles of Chateau Petrus Pomerol was launched from Virginia’s Wallops Space Facility in a Cygnus capsule last year. (Don’t worry about breakage in transit; each bottle is individually packed in a sturdy, metal cylinder.) The case then spent a year in orbit.
In January, the precious cargo was packed aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule. After splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico, the bottles were allowed time to recover from the mother-of-all bottle shocks.
However, the main event was last week when 12 experts gathered at the Institute for Wine and Vine Research in Bordeaux to blind taste the control Petrus versus (cellared on earth at an optimal 18ºC) the space Petrus. The idea was to learn about the effects of microgravity and space radiation on complex liquids like wine.
Opinions varied between the panel—as oft is the case with these tastings. However, consensus was that both bottles were delicious with slight differences.
“The one that had remained on Earth, for me, was still a bit more closed, a bit more tannic, a bit younger. And the one that had been up into space, the tannins had softened, the side of more floral aromatics came out,” said noted Decanter’s Jane Anson.
The experiment was helmed by Space Cargo Unlimited, a private startup. A joint team from the University of Bordeaux in France and the Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany handled the science.
The mission also included 320 clippings from Cabernet and Merlot vines. Those snippets will be analyzed by agricultural experts.