The auction house Christie’s is selling a bottle of wine that we can truly describe as out of this world. While the bottle in question, Pétrus 2000, is native to Earth, it’s spent the last 14 months aging aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Now that it’s touched back down to a terrestrial setting, the space-dwelling wine could fetch upwards of $1 million.
But the bottle of wine didn’t just travel to the ISS for the fun of it. (It’s not that easy to go to space; just ask the billionaires.) It’s all part of a very expensive—and incredibly fascinating—study into how plants adapt to space conditions. The bottle, and 11 others, blasted off into space in November 2019 before returning to Earth in January 2021. While at ISS, they aged in a “carefully monitored and controlled environment.” Space Cargo Unlimited is the company running behind the program, which is aptly called Mission WISE (Vitis Vinum in Spatium Experimentia).
The bottle up for sale is from the first of six experiments. And according to Christie’s, proceeds from the sale will fund future space missions. But that’s not all. The lucky purchaser is not just walking away with space wine. The historic red comes in a stunning trunk from Parisian Maison d’Arts Les Ateliers Victor. The purchaser also gets a bottle of Pétrus 2000 that remained Earthside to compare. And, of course, a decanter, glasses and a corkscrew made from a meteorite.
So why send bottles of fancy wine when trying to study plants in space? Christie’s press release offers a pretty simple reasoning: “When it comes to climate change wine and vines are very sensitive to the fluctuations at play on Earth and are early indicators of the wider challenges faced. Viticulture holds many keys to the future of agriculture and life sciences in general, and studying wine in space offers numerous new discovery opportunities.”
The study presented an opportunity to [recreate] an “an Earth-like environment with near-zero gravity.” It’ll also allow the company to explore the wine aging process in general, of which there are still so many unknowns. In March, a group of scientists and wine tasters gathered to test the space wine. And the results? According to one participant, Jane Anson, the time in space did change the bottle.
Anson told the BBC, “It’s hard for me to say if it was better or worse. But it was definitely different. The aromatics were more floral and more smoky—the things that would happen anyway to Petrus as it gets older.”
Not a fan of red? Hopefully the next missions will feature a crisp wine—or even a splashy Rosé!