Zero-gravity champagne caters for out-of-this-world celebrations
One problem with spaceflight is that when astronauts do something incredible like walk on the Moon, all they have to toast their achievement with is warmish powdered orange juice sucked out of a plastic bag. Vinter Maison Mumm wants to change that with its Mumm Grand Cordon Stellar, the first champagne designed to be drunk in space. The result of three years of work with space design firm Spade, the new sparkling wine and its high-tech bottle and glasses are specially engineered for celebrating in zero gravity.
So far, we've seen space espresso, space beer, and even space whisky, so why not a space champagne? Set to be officially launched in September as part of a digital advertising campaign, Mumm Grand Cordon Stellar seeks to overcome the problems of enjoying bubbly in a weightless environment – not the least of which is that wine won't pour.
"For the last 40 years, space travel has been shaped by engineers rather than designers," says Spade founder Octave de Gaulle. "Instead of seeing zero gravity as a problem to be solved, we look at it as a design possibility. The big design challenge for Mumm Grand Cordon Stellar was actually getting the liquid out of the bottle."
The culprit in this case is surface tension. On Earth, gravity pulls at the liquid, drawing it down the neck of the bottle and into the glass. In space, the lack of gravity means that surface tension makes wine about as pourable cold treacle as it sticks to the side of the bottle.
Mumm is keeping mum about the details, but the Grand Cordon Stellar's secret is in its high tech bottle. It may look like an ordinary champagne bottle with a metal ring stuck on the neck, but inside there's a mechanism that uses the carbon dioxide that makes the champagne fizz to force the wine out of the bottle. This doesn't come out as a stream of liquid, but as a kind of foam.
This foam is trapped by the ring on the neck of the bottle. It's then released and, as it floats in the air like a ball of bubbles, it's caught by the drinker using a special glass with a concave cup about 5 cm (2 in) in diameter. There, the surface tension holds it in place until the drinker has a chance to taste it. The glass also has a pointed stem rather than a base because there's no way to put it down.
According to Mumm's Cellar Master Didier Mariotti, drinking champagne in space is more than a stunt, it provides a new sensation quite unlike drinking it on Earth, resulting in an explosion of ripe and juicy fruit aromas.
"It's a very surprising feeling," says Mariotti. "Because of zero gravity, the liquid instantly coats the entire inside of the mouth, magnifying the taste sensations. There's less fizziness and more roundness and generosity, enabling the wine to express itself fully."
Though Mumm says that it is in talks about including Grand Cordon Stellar on future space missions or at orbiting hotels, it's also using it as a way of taking wine tasting out of dusty cellars and into the Space Age. The company is organizing zero-gravity parabolic flights on special aircraft run by Novespace, where customers can taste the champagne under weightless conditions. In addition, it is soliciting proposals for new innovation projects.
"By rising to this new challenge, Mumm defies gravity and once again pushes the limits of innovation," says Louis de Fautereau, Global Brand Director of Mumm. "This revolutionary bottle illustrates the Maison's status as an icon of the avant-garde."
The video shows the Mumm Grand Cordon Stellar being tasted in zero gravity.