Pétrus wine aged in space up for sale at Christie's

By Toby Luckhurst
BBC News

Published
image copyrightChristie's Images Ltd. 2021
image captionChristie's estimates a sale price of $1m (£720,000) for the wine and a normal bottle for comparison

A bottle of French wine that orbited the Earth for more than a year has been put up for sale.

The bottle of Pétrus 2000 - made from merlot grapes in the Bordeaux region - spent 14 months in orbit as part of a privately funded research study on food and agriculture.

On Tuesday Christie's announced the wine is now available through its private sales.

The auction house estimates a sale price of $1m (£720,000; €830,000).

Tim Triptree, a Master of Wine who works at Christie's, told the BBC a regular bottle of Pétrus 2000 will also be sold alongside the space-aged bottle, "so the lucky buyer will be able to compare the two".

Space Cargo Unlimited sent 12 bottles of the wine to the International Space Station (ISS) in November 2019. After more than 400 days in space, travelling around 300 million km (186 million miles) in zero gravity, the wine returned to Earth in January 2021.

Scientists analysed it and a group of wine tasters got to try a batch at the University of Bordeaux's wine institute in March, to compare it with Earth-aged bottles. Jane Anson, journalist and author of Inside Bordeaux, was one of the lucky few.

"It's hard for me to say if it was better or worse. But it was definitely different," she told the BBC. "The aromatics were more floral and more smoky - the things that would happen anyway to Petrus as it gets older."

image copyrightReuters
image captionThe wine spent 14 months on board the International Space Station
image copyrightChristie's Images Ltd. 2021
image captionChristie's are selling the wine with a normal Pétrus 2000 for comparison inside a specially-designed case

Ms Anson said it was a smart choice to send Pétrus into orbit - both because of its prestigious reputation, and its ability to age.

"There aren't that many wines that can genuinely age for 60, 70, longer years, and Petrus is one of them," she said. She was not sure whether zero gravity had an effect on the wine, or if the journey to, from and around the Earth did. "But there was a clear difference," she added.

The bottles were sent up to space as part of Mission WISE, a privately-funded space research programme run by Space Cargo Unlimited. Nicolas Gaume, the company's co-founder and CEO, said in a statement that the scheme aimed to "help invent the agriculture and food we need for tomorrow on Earth" by examining the effects of zero-gravity and space.

The proceeds from the Christie's sale will help fund further Space Cargo Unlimited experiments in space. Mr Triptree told the BBC the research showed that "wine does mature in space".

"Who knows, maybe the next astronauts will be smuggling wine up with them!" he said.

This is the only bottle which will be sold. Three were opened for the tasting, and the remaining eight will be kept back for future research.

Bordeaux estate Château Pétrus only produces about 30,000 bottles of wine a year, and its product is consistently ranked among the most expensive in the world. A 2000 vintage bottle of Pétrus usually sells for about $6,000.

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