Now you can make wine in Mars

Colin Burbidge, of Lancashire Wine School, writes about winemaking in Mars

I love quirky wine news items. The nation that claims to be the first to grow grapes for winemaking is researching grape varieties to cultivate on Mars for winemaking.

Archeological finds suggest Georgia is the first part of the world to have undertaken winemaking in an organised manner, possibly as long ago as 6,000 BC.

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NASA recently called for ideas from the public to contribute to sustainable human presence on Mars.

Essentials like sustainable water sources and food are, of course, important, but how can you build a new civilization without wine?

Project 1X Mellenium has been set up by the Georgian Space Research Agency,

Tblisi Business and Technology University and a company called Space Farms.

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The project is starting with basics like developing bacteria that could turn Martian soil into fertile earth… (shouldn’t that be fertile mars?)

Progress has already been made by developing bacteria that exists locally in hot sulphurous springs into strains that will survive in dry rocky conditions, like Mars, and get to work on the dusty soil.

Although wine may not seem the priority in the bigger picture, it’s worth bearing in mind that grape vines are particularly hardy, especially those whose fruit is destined for wine, and would provide an ideal starting point for Martian agriculture.

The team are also testing the skins of 525 Georgian grape varieties to see which might be suited to the high UV levels experienced on the Martian surface. One such grape could be Rkatsiteli, which produces crisp white Georgian wines.

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The grapes will need to be tough, as well as piercing UV rays they will have to cope with high carbon monoxide levels and bone-chilling sub-zero temperatures.

As with any scientific research, what might seem a far-fetched goal often has other more down-to-earth benefits.

Climate change is a significant challenge in wine production, with challenging high temperatures and drought conditions in Australia threatening to condemn all Australian wine to high-alcohol over-ripe characteristics, while Argentina’s high-altitude vineyards can often create overly thick grape skins due to excessive UV rays, so research of this extreme nature could provide clues as to how to maintain current production of quality wines in Earth’s wine regions.

Elon Musk is looking to put the first human presence on Mars by 2024, so any young teenagers out there might fancy planning a bit of other-worldly grape picking in their university gap year?

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Meantime, back on Earth, if you fancy trying some Georgian wines, Waitrose have a fine example of a fruity red Superavi while Marks and Spencer have the Tbilvino Quevris, a pear and quince example of a Rkatsiteli wine.

Georgian wine specialist Turton Wines, in Bolton, have no less than 13 reds and nine whites, including the Tbilvino at a very good price!

It’s a while since I visited but I have the Telavi Marni Pirosmani 2005 in my notes as excellent quality. This one no longer available, but they seem to have a range from the same producer, worth a try. Watch this space.