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Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Aglianico in space, to plan the future of vines and wine

The Italian Space Agency and the Italian Sommelier Foundation created the project for the Biondi Santi, Gaja and Feudi di San Gregorio wineries

In the not too distant future besides astronauts going into space, there will also be farmers and wine producers, too. At the beginning, it will be to continue experiments on agriculture and food production within Earth’s orbit, for example, at the International Space Station. Subsequently, as two famous personalities, Franco Malerba, the first astronaut in Italian history, in 1992, and Giorgio Saccoccia, president of the International Space Agency (ASI) stated, there will be human colonies, first on the Moon, and then on Mars. In the meantime, and in collaboration with various partners, including the Italian Sommelier Foundation (FIS) led by Franco Ricci, they will send cuttings of Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Aglianico into orbit (“a vine from the North, one from the Center and one from the South, representing the great Italian variety”, Franco Ricci told WineNews). The cuttings will be supplied by the symbolic wineries of the territories, namely Gaja, icon of the Langhe, Biondi Santi, the history of Montalcino, and Feudi di San Gregorio, a beacon of Irpinia. They will also send their wines into space - Gaja will send Barolo 2017 and Barolo Sperss 1988, Biondi Santi, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2015 and 2006, and Feudi di San Gregorio, Taurasi Piano di Monte Vergine 2012 and 2015 . Donato Lanati, one of the most visionary winemakers and also at the helm of the Enosis Meraviglia Center, explained that the experiment will have two objectives. “Regarding wine, we will study the effects of weightlessness on taste, aging and aromas on the bottles that will remain in orbit for a few months, which we will then taste together with their "twins" that will remain on Earth. Regarding vines, we will replant the cuttings that have been in space, together with the equivalent ones left on Earth, to find out what effects there are, especially in terms of the developing resistance to diseases, starting with downy mildew and phylloxera”.
The visionary project, was launched yesterday at the Italian Sommelier Foundation (FIS) 15th edition of the “International Forum of Wine Culture”, in Rome (Rome Cavalieri). And, the title of the event is definitely quite significant, namely, “Infinite space, eternity of wine. In honor of David Sassoli”.
The first verification of the effects that remaining in orbit has had on wine and vines is already here. Nicolas Gaume, founder of Space Cargo Unlimited, a company that in 2021, on Mission Wise, sent several bottles of one of the legendary Bordeaux wines, Chateau Petrus 2000, together with Cabernet and Merlot vines into orbit. “The wine that we then tasted and compared with the one left on Earth was substantially identical, on the nose, but more evolved in the mouth. But, more interestingly”, Gaume explained, “the vines that had been in space, replanted alongside the terrestrial ones, have shown that they grow faster and are larger, in size, under the same conditions. Plus, they are much more resistant to phylloxera and other diseases. Therefore, we can say that subjecting them to the stress linked to lack of gravity, we have created two new varieties of Merlot and Cabernet, and we are now working together with the French nursery, Mercier, to find out whether they can be marketed in the near future”.
In the future, space will play an increasingly important role, as Massimo Claudio Comparini explained to Thales Alena Space Italia, another partner in the project. There are many experiments that can be carried out on plants in orbit, as Alessandro Donaty, general manager of Kayser Italia, who produces instrumentation for experimentation, explained. “The experiment helps us to understand an abundance of things and it is a great pleasure to be part of it, because Feudi di San Gregorio”, the wine producer Antonio Capaldo told WineNews, “was created to present the vines of Campania around the world, so thinking of taking them into space is a dream come true. We are expecting to understand more about wine and the evolution of life, plus we have great companions in this adventure”. “I think it is a sign of civilization”, Angelo Gaja commented, “to put a product like wine and a plant like the grape vine in a space station, to discover whether they will undergo changes during their stay in space. It is the preview of the next passage, which will be to find a hospitable planet on which to land, and it is a good omen sign also for the cultural and historical value that wine has. Wine is absolutely the most important Mediterranean drink, the absolute top symbol of Made in Italy”. “We are very excited about participating in this initiative”, Giampiero Bertolini, CEO of Biondi Santi, added, “it is a profound emotion to know our wines and our rooted cuttings are going into space. It is not easy to say what we expect from this project at the moment, because it is a question of doing research, which is what we are doing more and more at the Biondi Santi company in Montalcino, both in the soil and on clones. We are trying to understand whether this experiment will give us useful information. But it is in line with what we inherited from the Biondi Santi family, as well as understanding whether we will have more information in the future, also about our wines and aging”. “Knowing wine and studying it has a particular charm. Today”, Franco Ricci added, “a new future is beginning with the commitment of space scientists for the survival of the vine, the only plant that, in Italian, has the name of “life” in its plural form. The process that is beginning could redesign the future, just like the inventor of the wheel 5.000 years ago. We believe the future is the preservation of vines and wine, which have accompanied the history of man throughout the millenniums”.

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