The wine is extraordinary. The cost is appropriately exorbitant.
Christie’s announced Tuesday that it will be selling a bottle of French wine that spent more than a year in space aboard the International Space Station. According to the auction house, a wine connoisseur could pay up to $1 million for it.
The Pétrus 2000 is one of 12 bottles sent into space by researchers investigating the possibility of extraterrestrial agriculture in November 2019. According to wine experts who sampled it at a tasting in France 14 months later, it returned subtly altered. The space-aged wine was “matured in a unique environment” of near zero-gravity aboard the space station, according to Tim Tiptree, international director of Christie’s wine and spirits department.
The journey transformed a $10,000-per-bottle wine known for its complexity, silky, ripe tannins, and flavors of black cherry, cigar box, and leather into a scientific novelty — and still a fine bottle of wine, according to Tiptree.
“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.”
The wine was launched into orbit in November 2019 by the private space startup Space Cargo Unlimited as part of an effort to make plants on Earth more resilient to climate change and disease by exposing them to new stresses. Researchers want to learn more about the aging process, fermentation, and bubbles in wine.
A dozen wine connoisseurs compared one of the space-traveled wines to a bottle from the same vintage that had remained in a cellar during a taste test in March at the Institute for Wine and Vine Research in Bordeaux, France.
They noticed a distinction that was difficult to describe. According to Jane Anson, a writer for the wine publication Decanter, the wine that remained on Earth tasted slightly younger, while the space version was slightly softer and more aromatic. ‘The main difference I found was heightened floral characteristics,’ Anson said about the space wine during a live press conference.
The wine, being offered by Christie’s in a private sale, comes with a bottle of terrestrial Pétrus 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.
The sale proceeds will be used to fund future research by Space Cargo Unlimited. Several other bottles from the dozen sent to space remain unopened, but Christie’s says no plans to sell any of them.
According to Tiptree, the price estimate of “in the region of $1 million” reflects the sale’s likely appeal to a mix of wine connoisseurs, space enthusiasts, and the type of wealthy people who collect “ultimate experiences.”
The bottle of 2000 Pétrus that remained on Earth is included in the lot so the buyer can compare the two if they decide to open the one that went into orbit. “I would hope that they will decide to drink it, but maybe not immediately,” Tiptree said. “It’s at its peak drinking, but this wine will last probably another at least another two or three decades.”