In June of this year, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the 30-year celebration of the Michel Lynch brand that took place at the Cazes Distribution Center, in Macau, Médoc. For this festive occasion, the metal cages filled with wine were pushed aside to free space for a dining room inside the cellars, thus creating 20-foot tall walls of wine bottles lit by laser lights that changed colors periodically.
The most intriguing piece of information I learned that spectacular evening from Jean-Charles Cazes’s speech was a “fait-divers” (news story) about the one and only bottle of wine ever flown and consumed in space. Jean-Charles let his dad, 81-year-old Jean-Michel Cazes, tell us the entire story as it happened back then in 1985: The fact is, 30 years ago, a 375mL bottle of 1975 Château Lynch-Bages, took off aboard the space shuttle Discovery with French astronaut Patrick Baudry, who wanted to demonstrate his attachment to France and the French way of life by taking along half-bottle of wine on his space adventure.
The STS-51-G Discovery shuttle took off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 7:33 a.m. on June 17, 1985, and Jean-Michel Cazes was there to watch the launch. It returned to land one week later on June 24 at the Edwards Air Force Base in California. The Discovery mission was the first French-American collaboration in space, and 29-year-old Patrick Baudry was flying as a payload specialist.
The French government initially disapproved the idea of wine in space, because of the same symbolism viewed from a different perspective. NASA on the other hand had no objections and the green light was given after Jean-Michel signed a declaration of no-commercial-gain. That is probably why this story was such a well kept secret till now!
To date, Château Lynch-Bages is still the only wine to have traveled in space. And though it will always be the first, I have to wonder, which wine will be next in space?
Atanas Nechkov, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits wine and spirits supervisor
Follow me on Twitter @abcwineatanas
Read more about the first wine in space in the upcoming issue of the Wine Journal. You can read the current edition here.