In future there will be no frontiers when it comes to making wine. Image: Arek Socha/Pixabay

Intergalactic grapes: Bottles of Bordeaux come back from space

A special cargo of wine has made its way home all the way from the International Space Station.


In future there will be no frontiers when it comes to making wine. Image: Arek Socha/Pixabay

The unusual cargo includes 12 bottles of wine and 320 grapevines. A SpaceX Dragon capsule left the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday January 12 and began its journey back to Earth with the special cargo on board.

The grapevines and bottles of Bordeaux wine were taken into space in November 2019 and March 2020, respectively, as part of an agricultural research project and experiment organised by European start-up Space Cargo Unlimited (SCU).

The experiment, known as “Mission Wise”, aimed to explore how to develop “new ways of growing plants on the Earth and scale up to feed more people on the planet”.

Vines to be analysed for genetic changes

The vines, now safely back on Earth, will be analysed to see how they have changed during their time in space, and whether the effects of microgravity and higher radiation exposure than on Earth accelerate genetic changes.

The grapevines from space will then be compared to specimens that remained on Earth, intending to adapt vines to grow in harsher environments. The wine will be tasted by a panel of oenophiles to determine the effects, if any, on the wine during its time in space.

Michael Lebert, SCU’s chief scientific officer, said the results of this experiment could be a game-changer in unlocking the agriculture of tomorrow.

“Woody plants such as vines are crucial to feeding the human population, but they have never been studied in space. Vines and wine are ideal study materials to assess the future of agriculture as climate change continues to change growing conditions.”

How space radiation affects ageing of wine

According to Space Cargo Unlimited, the results of the experiment to see how space radiation and microgravity affect wine components during the ageing process, could help in understanding taste enhancement and food conservation.

This is just the first of several such experiments, and planned future experiments include measuring the effect of space conditions on the fermentation of bacteria and yeast.

The SpaceX capsule and its precious cargo landed off Cape Canaveral in Florida last Wednesday January 13.