Aging wine in space as a space-flown goods and researching microgravity effects on vine canes..
- Unique novelty product to capture the interest of new population segments.
- Taking advantage of the accelerated development of plants in an environment with little or no gravity and higher radiation exposure.
Why & Solution
After sending red wine to the International Space Station in November and successfully proof-testing the “Self-Guided Evolution” research methodology in suborbital space in December 2019, Space Cargo Unlimited shipped 320 canes on the ISS for a six-month period. The results from this experiment will advance knowledge on how vine plants can adapt to climate change on Earth, with high potential applications for the future of agriculture.
CANES will take advantage of the accelerated development of plants in an environment with little or no gravity (i.e.microgravity), and higher radiation exposure. Mobilizing their defenses when threatened by changes in their environment, plants undergo severe biological changes. ISVV will analyze the differences between returning canes with similar specimens that stayed on earth to identify these mutations and to stabilize the adapted strains. Space Cargo Unlimited’s focus on vine and wine as a proxy for agricultural evolution at large is motivated by the extended knowledge developed around wine since ancestral times, the role it played in previous scientific breakthroughs, such as Louis Pasteur discovering the existence of bacteria.
Another reason for choosing wine as a proxy relies on the fact that like many cultures, wine is on the verge of being a victim of global warming¹. Grapes are extremely sensitive to change in temperature and season. In the 1970s, chaptalization, which stimulates malolactic fermentation, increases degrees of alcohol from 11 to 12. A decade later, chaptalization was no longer needed: climate was already getting warmer, producing sweeter grapes and Bordeaux wines containing 14 to 15 degrees of alcohol. Without action, in 40 years, Bordeaux wines as we know them will disappear.
“Ligneous plants are critical for our alimentation. They have never been studied in such a long-term period or in space,” Remarks PD Dr. Michael Lebert, Department of Cell Biology, FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg University (Germany) and Chief Scientist Officer of Space Cargo Unlimited. “We are pioneering a new way to study the impact of microgravity and accelerated evolution in plants and their dormant organs, such as seeds.” Adds Lebert. “This could be a game-changer in unlocking the agriculture of tomorrow.”
CANES will lead to discovering how to produce wine in harsher environments, and more importantly, how to adapt agriculture to the climate of tomorrow, following the “Self-Guided Evolution” research methodology that was successfully proof-tested in the past experience, ALPHA.
During a six-month period, two types of vines, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon canes, will be stored on the International Space Station. The experiment consists of mature pruning canes of the year with dormant buds, which are alive and in a hibernation mode. Consequently, they do not need any nutrient supplementation or watering, only an important humidity (70/80%) with a relatively low temperature (between 0.5 to 8 °C) in the dark. These conditions correspond to the way of storing pruning canes on Earth in order to obtain grapevine cuttings (growing plants).
At a press conference held by European start-up Space Cargo Unlimited, a small panel of experts sampled the space wine for changes to its makeup. They held a blind-tasting where they compared the space wine alongside mere terrestrial bottles. Experts noted that “real differences were noted with both appearance and taste.” Panelist commentary, according to Space Cargo’s press release called out the change in the wine’s color. “Difference in color, the space wine has light brick coloring,” “Ruby hues with brick-like reflections,” and “As for the color of the edges, there are shades of brick, slightly more pink along the disk” were among the notes.
Christie's said it is selling a bottle of French wine that spent more than a year in orbit aboard the International Space Station. The auction house thinks a wine connoisseur might pay as much as US$1 million to own it. The Petrus 2000 is one of 12 bottles sent into space in November 2019 by researchers exploring the potential for extraterrestrial agriculture. It returned 14 months later subtly altered, according to wine experts who sampled it at a tasting in France.
The trip turned a $10,000-a-bottle wine known for its complexity, silky, ripe tannins and flavours of black cherry, cigar box and leather into a scientific novelty -- and still a fine bottle of wine, Tiptree said. "It's just a very harmonious wine that has the ability to age superbly, which is why it was chosen for this experiment," he said. "It's very encouraging that it was delicious on return to Earth."
Private space startup Space Cargo Unlimited sent the wine into orbit in November 2019 as part of an effort to make plants on Earth more resilient to climate change and disease by exposing them to new stresses. Researchers also want to better understand the aging process, fermentation and bubbles in wine.
At a taste test in March at the Institute for Wine and Vine Research in Bordeaux, France, a dozen wine connoisseurs compared one of the space-travelled wines to a bottle from the same vintage that had stayed in a cellar. They noted a difference that was hard to describe. Jane Anson, a writer with the wine publication Decanter, said the wine that remained on Earth tasted a bit younger, the space version slightly softer and more aromatic.
The wine, being offered by Christie's in a private sale, comes with a bottle of terrestrial Petrus of the same vintage, a decanter, glasses and a corkscrew crafted from a meteorite. It's all held in a hand-crafted wooden trunk with decoration inspired by science fiction pioneer Jules Verne and the "Star Trek" universe. Tiptree says the price estimate, "in the region of $1 million," reflects the sale's likely appeal to a mix of wine connoisseurs, space buffs and the kind of wealthy people who collect "ultimate experiences."
Space Cargo Unlimited has already done some work on how microgravity can impact wine — it shipped a crate of red wine to the International Space Station in 2019, and then returned it to Earth last year after a full 12 months aging aboard the station in near zero-G. Now, the startup has formed a subsidiary dedicated to in-space biotech specifically, Space Biology Unlimited, and it’s going to be the one working with Mercier on figuring out how to grow new grape vine varietals that are more resistant to changes in the climates in which they grown.
In addition to the case of Bordeaux that Space Cargo Unlimited sent up, the company also sent 320 vine canes (basically the core structure of a vine that results from the maturation of the juvenile shoot), and it just recently received those back on SpaceX’s cargo return trip from the ISS. Those canes, half from Cabernet grapes and half from Cabernet Sauvignon, have shown “unprecedented biological changes” according to Mercier CEO Guillaume Mercier in a statement. They’ll now be cloned and studied to see if they provide any advantages in terms of potential for growth on “our fast-warming planet.
Christie's said Tuesday it is selling a bottle of French wine that spent more than a year in orbit aboard the International Space Station. The auction house thinks a wine connoisseur might pay as much as US$1 million to own it. The Petrus 2000 is one of 12 bottles sent into space in November 2019 by researchers exploring the potential for extraterrestrial agriculture. It returned 14 months later subtly altered, according to wine experts who sampled it at a tasting in France.
At a press conference held Weds. in Bordeaux, France by European start-up Space Cargo Unlimited, a small panel of experts sampled the space wine for changes to its makeup. They held a blind-tasting where they compared the space wine alongside mere terrestrial bottles.