Bordeaux, March 24th, 2021

Media Alert – for Immediate Release
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Télécharger le dossier de presse ici

After 438 days and 19 hours on board the International Space Station, at an altitude of 400 km, and after a journey of 300,000,000 km (the equivalent of about 300 trips between the Earth and the Moon) at 28,000 km / h and in zero gravity, twelve bottles of 2000 vintage Petrus, deliver their first secrets.

 

Regardez la conférence de presse en français ici.

Please watch the Press Conference in english here.

 

Bordeaux (France) — 24 March 2021, At a press conference held at the Bordeaux City Hall, Space Cargo Unlimited unveiled the secrets of the wine that had spent 14 months on the international space station as part of Mission WISE, the world’s first private applied space research program. In the context of global warming, Mission WISE aims to leverage the effects of microgravity on complex biological systems to find solutions for the viticulture and agriculture of tomorrow.

Mission WISE aims to advance research on viticulture as much as winemaking,” Say Nicolas Gaume and Emmanuel Etcheparre, co-founders of Space Cargo Unlimited. “This process and the ageing of wine remain largely a mystery. In studying them, the founding father of oenology, Louis Pasteur, made fundamental discoveries in life sciences. Today, we believe that the unique characteristics of the space environment can help us continue this research work.

That’s how twelve bottles of Petrus headed to the International Space Station on November 2, 2019, with the technical support from French-Italian Thales Alenia Space and the U.S. company Nanoracks, returning to Earth on January 14, 2021, aboard a Dragon capsule (SpaceX), before reaching Bordeaux to start a research and analysis program that will span over several years.

The first analysis took place on March 1st at the ISVV (Institut des Sciences de la Vigne et du Vin) in Bordeaux, which organized an organoleptic tasting led by Philippe Darriet, director of the Institute’s Oenology Research Unit. A panel of 12 people, including 5 panelists familiar with professional tastings, including Philippe Darriet himself, conducted a tasting to describe the terrestrial wine and the space wine according to visual, gustatory, and olfactory criteria.

It was with great emotion that we recovered the twelve bottles of 2000 vintage Petrus in Bordeaux at the beginning of February, intact and having withstood all the constraints of preparation, travel, and storage on the ISS,” Says Nicolas Gaume. “Of course, the analysis is still in its early stages, but the first findings are very promising for the future of the research program. We are extremely enthusiastic“.

Space Cargo Unlimited’s choice of Petrus was no coincidence. Known worldwide for its exceptional qualities, Petrus is predominantly mono-varietal and has a documented history that allows us to measure the effects of the wine’s time in space. The 2000 vintage also offers a beautiful structure that will allow us to fully appreciate this impact.

Unanimously, the two wines were considered to be great wines, which means that despite the 14-month stay on the international space station, the “space wine” was very well evaluated sensorially” explains Philippe Darriet, who continues: “Differences were perceived concerning the color of the wines. Concerning aroma and taste components: the two wines were described with a rich vocabulary attesting to remarkable olfactory and gustatory complexity; sensory dimensions of sweetness, harmony, and persistence were particularly noted.

 

Among panelists’ comments were notably:

●     “Difference in color, the space wine has light brick coloring

●     “Ruby hues with brick-like reflections

●     “As for the color of the edges, there are shades of brick, slightly more pink along the disk

Tasting and sensory analysis of a wine means its appreciation by sight, smell and taste. These 3 criteria are the ones that allow us to appreciate, remember and differentiate wines from each other, with the objective of limiting, as much as possible, subjectivity and preconceptions“, adds Emmanuel Etcheparre, co-founder of Space Cargo Unlimited and coordinator of the research for its subsidiary Space Biology Unlimited. “The rigorous protocol allowed us to challenge each participant in this tasting. They were not aware in advance if they were tasting a wine that had been in space or remained on earth.

“Emmanuel Etcheparre concludes “Real differences were noted with both appearance and taste. It was more complicated for the participants to differentiate olfactory dimensions.

Alongside the twelve bottles of Petrus, 320 vine canes spent 10 months on the International Space Station, in partnership with CNES and ESA, returning to Earth on January 14. The vine canes were then subjected to detailed microscopic analysis and planted a few days after their return to Earth, both in the ISVV greenhouses, where they are studied under Stéphanie Cluzet, director of the Research Program; and partly in the Vendée region, in the greenhouses of the Mercier Group, a world leader in the production of vine plants and the creation of vineyards, with which Space Cargo Unlimited has entered into a strategic partnership. After a few weeks, the effects of the absence of microgravity on the vine shoots are already visually perceptible: buds and growth are observed much earlier than on canes that remained on Earth in similar conditions.

For both the vine canes and wine, “even if it is still premature to provide scientific conclusions, however these first observations validate the uniquely innovative approach of Space Cargo Unlimited, which consists both of using space as a new research environment for the future of agriculture, and capitalizing on the vine and wine, which are an incredible medium for scientific research, as Pasteur demonstrated in the past“, conclude Emmanuel Etcheparre and Nicolas Gaume.

The next steps of the research program are structured around precise analyses aimed at identifying the composition of the biochemical properties of the wine that has been in space. This research will make it possible to identify the determining causes of the observed modifications, which is essential to understanding the impact of the space environment on the ageing of a wine and its components (taste, aroma, color, polyphenols, fermentation, bacteria, yeast …).

Research is also continuing on vine canes, in collaboration with the FAU Erlangen University (Germany) and the Mercier Group, under the aegis of Space Cargo Unlimited’s scientific director, Dr. Michael Lebert.

Buoyed by these initial promising results, Space Cargo Unlimited is currently developing the fourth experiment in the WISE Mission program, scheduled for next year on the International Space Station.

 

About Space Cargo Unlimited
Founded in 2014, Space Cargo Unlimited is a European start-up founded by renowned private investors and entrepreneurs with a passion for space. Encouraged by emerging dynamics, technological advances, and the decreasing costs of access to low Earth orbit, Space Cargo Unlimited intends to exploit, by leveraging the high level of expertise in the European space industry, the potential of microgravity research for practical and commercial applications on Earth. The target areas are agriculture, health, and food. Space Cargo Unlimited works with teams and partners in Bordeaux and Toulouse (France), Erlangen (Germany), and Turin (Italy). Space Cargo Unlimited partners include ESA, CNES, Thales Alenia Space, Nanoracks, FAU (Erlangen Nuremberg), and ISVV (Bordeaux) universities.
For more information: www.mission-wise.com
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