Bordeaux wine gone to space back to Earth
After letting it rest, the first wine in space should be tasted in Bordeaux by the end of February.
- The bottles of wine and the vines were sent 14 and 10 months ago respectively to the International Space Station (ISS).
- The packages returned from space on Wednesday, and are waiting in Cape Canaveral before reaching the Bordeaux laboratories of the Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences (ISVV).
- The objective will be to determine a possible impact on the taste of the wine and to determine if the grape varieties develop a resistance that could prove useful in dealing with global warming.
Nicolas Gaume is engaged these days in discussions ... lunar. To recover the twelve bottles of wine and the 320 vine plants that landed on Wednesday near the Pacific coast of the United States, after several months spent on the International Space Station (ISS), he must determine with the authorities whether these packages, by going into space, have left French territory or not ...
“We are in incredible legal loopholes,” smiles the Bordeaux entrepreneur, who has been living in Seattle for four years. The obstacle, before being able to repatriate its packages to the laboratories of the Institut des sciences de la bigne et du vin (ISVV), in Villenave-d'Ornon in the suburbs of Bordeaux, is however minimal, in view of the 'the immensity and complexity of the Wise mission, which consists of six scientific experiments in space, to try to find answers to the way of doing, tomorrow, viticulture and agriculture in a land that will be of hotter and hotter.
"When they contacted us, we found it amazing"
Known in Bordeaux for having created the Kalisto video game company in the 1990s, Nicolas Gaume embarked on the Space Cargo Unlimited adventure in 2014 with an entrepreneur from the wine world, Emmanuel Etcheparre. They have partnered with Cnes, and have started working with the European Space Agency and NASA to send bottles of Bordeaux and plants of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon into space.
A crazy project? "I must say that when they contacted us to support them on this project, we found it mind-blowing", acknowledges Professor Philippe Darriet, director of the Oenology research unit at ISVV-university today. de Bordeaux, which ensures the scientific monitoring of the experiment. “But that aroused our curiosity and we decided to spend time on the project because it poses interesting scientific questions: what impact on the taste of wine than to keep it for a year in microgravity conditions and exposure to solar radiation? The interest will be to be able to analyze these wines which will come back, in comparison to the control wines which have remained in the same temperature and humidity conditions on Earth, and to graft, the vine shoots to replant them in order to study them. "
Twelve bottles from a prestigious château whose name will soon be revealed
The cargoes, packaged in specific equipment, had taken place on board modules from SpaceX and Blue Origin, in particular. The twelve bottles of wine, from a prestigious château, the name of which will soon be unveiled, had left in November 2019 and the 320 vines in March 2020. “If all goes well, explains Nicolas Gaume, the packages will arrive at the end. of January at ISVV. We will let the wine that has been shaken up a lot to rest, and we will organize a tasting at the end of February with Franck Dubourdieu, a renowned oenologist expert. "
In the ISS, the bottles and the vines were kept at a constant temperature and humidity. Around 18 ° for wine. "We have recreated all the parameters of life on Earth, except gravity" insists Nicolas Gaume. “This is what is interesting about experiments in space because by removing gravity, you create considerable stress on everything that is alive. Most of them live it badly and die. But this stress sometimes accelerates certain natural evolutions, which is even more interesting in wine which contains key elements of life, such as bacteria and yeast. "
Plants that are more resistant to climate change?
Some plants exposed to "gravity stress" have also started to show resistance to salt, which is more present in the soil when water becomes scarce. A first way to be able to select plants that are better resistant to global warming? It is obviously too early to tell. But the objective of the company, in the long term, is indeed to "develop varieties of plants more resistant to climate change, downy mildew or other pests, in order to market them to wine estates".
It is also about making a return on an investment kept secret, but which amounts to several million euros. “I cannot give a precise amount, because it is complicated, explains Nicolas Gaume, the discussions are mainly done with NASA, and in space, there is no list price for the services. Everything relating to launch, storage, and "astronaut time" is calculated on the basis of the merits of the scientific program. This represents two-thirds of the costs. There are several private investors, including myself, and a major shareholder. "
Now, director of a branch of Microsoft International, Nicolas Gaume wishes to return to Bordeaux to continue piloting from the Gironde the rest of his space adventure. There are still four missions to complete, one of which would be to perform fermentations in space. "It is a page of history that we are writing", savors Professor Philippe Darriet, who impatiently awaits to receive his first wine from space.