A bottle of red wine that spent more than a year in space could end up being the most expensive wine ever sold.
Christie's is selling a bottle of Pétrus 2000 that was aged for 14 months aboard the International Space Station (ISS) before returning to Earth in January. And the British auction house estimates will ultimately fetch a price "in the region of $1 million."
That would make the space-aged vintage the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold. (The current record for a single bottle of wine came in 2018, when anonymous buyers paid $558,000 for a bottle of 1945 Romanee-Conti French Burgandy, sold by Sotheby's.)
A bottle of wine from Chateau Pétrus, a winery in France's Bordeaux region, from the year 2000 typically fetches more than $7,000, according to Wine-Searcher. And whoever buys the space-aged wine will also receive a bottle of the same vintage of Pétrus 2000 that was aged on Earth, in order to compare differences in how the two taste.
A dozen bottles of the Pétrus 2000 spent 14 months aging in zero-gravity aboard the ISS, orbiting the Earth while traveling 17,000 miles per hour. They were placed on the ISS by European research company Space Cargo Unlimited with the aim of studying the effects of space travel on the wine-aging process.
In March, a panel of wine experts and oenologists assembled by the Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences in Bordeaux conducted a taste test of the space-aged bottles of Pétrus 2000 that are not being sold. They compared the space-aged wines to bottles of the same vintage that had been aged on Earth, finding distinct differences in the wines' taste, color and aroma.
One panelist, a correspondent from Decanter magazine named Jane Anson, even said in March that the space-aged wine tasted as if it had been aged for two to three years longer than the wine aged on Earth.
The experts called the space-aged wine "great," according to Christie's, with the auction house writing in a blog post that some of the panelists said the space-aged wine's flavor "resembled rose petals, and that it smelled like cured leather or a campfire, and shone with a burnt-orange luster."
Meanwhile, bottles of Pétrus 2000 aged on Earth are typically known for having tasting notes of smoke, blackberries, cherries, licorice, and truffles, according to Wine.com.
Space biologist Michael Labert told website euronews that difference in taste happens at least in part because a particular reaction during the wine aging process on Earth, called convection, does not happen at zero gravity.
Space Cargo Unlimited, which also sent hundreds of wine grape vines along for the trip, hopes the experiment will aid research into the maturation process of wine, including how wine and grape vines adapt to new conditions. According to Christie's, the group found that the grape vines actually grew faster in space than on Earth, despite less access to light and water.
"It will be hugely exciting to see the data on how zero gravity, changing temperatures, humidity and radiation have affected the wine on a molecular level," Tim Triptree, the international director of Christie's Wine & Spirits Department, said in a statement. "And who knows, perhaps this will be the beginning of cosmic viticulture, or even a Martian Merlot."
Indeed, Space Cargo Unlimited says it will use the proceeds of the sale of the space-aged wine bottle to fund future space missions and additional research into how zero-gravity and low-gravity conditions affect agriculture and viticulture (the cultivation of grapes, specifically). The company says hopes to discover how to grow grape vine varietals that are more resistant to changes in climate and other growing conditions, as a way of "reinventing the future of agriculture" at a time when climate change is affecting growing conditions on Earth.
The wine will also come with a decanter, glasses and a corkscrew crafted from a meteorite, all of which is presented in a custom trunk handcrafted by Parisian art house Les Ateliers Victor that features celestial designs, including a miniature solar system.
Christie's is currently seeking buyers for the bottle through what will be a private sale.