When most of us need to sound smart about wine, we simply tilt the glass a little, take a big sniff, and mumble something about dark fruits.
But a group of French wine connoisseurs have detected a sprinkle of stardust at their latest tasting, after becoming the first people in the world to sample and review wine that spent a year in space.
Experts in Bordeaux analyzed the contents of a 2000 bottle of Chateau Petrus Merlot, one of 12 taken to space on a SpaceX capsule in an attempt to explore “new ways of growing plants.”
So – what does cosmic wine taste like?
“I found there was a difference in both color and aromatics and also in taste,” wine writer Jane Anson told CNN Thursday.
“It just felt a little bit older, a bit more evolved than the wine that had remained on Earth,” she said, adding that the cosmic wine’s tannins were more evolved and it had a more floral character.
The group of experts tasted the wine alongside another glass of the same variety that had stayed on Earth, before being told which was which.
And Anson concluded that its adventure above the stratosphere added about two to three years’ maturity to the drink.
“It’s definitely not everyday that you get asked to taste a wine that has been in space,” Anson said. “If you were going to drink it tonight, then probably the one that had been in space is a bit more ready to drink. It was a bit more open,” she said.
Chateau Petrus is the most famous winery in Pomerol, a village in Bordeaux known for its production of Merlot.
Anson explained that a 2000 bottle was chosen by organizers because it is popular with drinkers and has proven to be a good vintage, meaning that there were plenty of tasting notes to compare the cosmic version with.
A regular, Earth-dwelling bottle of the vintage would cost somewhere around $6,000.
The wine and grapevines left Earth in two shipments in November 2019 and March 2020, and landed back on our planet near Cape Canaveral, Florida, in January.
They are now being analyzed to see how they have changed during their time in space, where the effects of microgravity and a higher radiation exposure than on Earth accelerate genetic changes. Scientists will compare the vines to specimens that remained on Earth, with the aim of adapting vines to grow in harsher environments.
Philippe Darriet, the project’s organizer and Director of the Oenology Research Unit Institute of Vines, Science and Wine, told CNN that, for 14 months, the wine was “in different aging conditions” than it was on Earth.
“The question that we asked was: Did these components that give aroma, the components that give taste, evolve differently when the wine was in space?”
A total of 12 bottles were sent, of which only one was tasted. The others will now be analyzed further, he added.
And Darriet is also eager to see analysis of the vines that were sent alongside the bottles. “Perhaps this kind of work will allow us in the future to have plants acquiring different adaptive properties, in relation to climate change problems,” he said.
CNN’s Jack Guy contributed to this report.