In the 1970s after successful missions to the moon, NASA was interested in the possibility of long term habitation in space. One of the biggest concerns was nutritious and ideally pleasant tasting food. In both the Gemini and Apollo missions, the food was dehydrated and rather unappetizing. After years of research they made considerable improvements: “the [space]station would include both a freezer and an oven and foods would be provided in five varieties—dehydrated, intermediate moisture, ‘wet-packed,’ frozen, and perishable…….Spaghetti, prime ribs, ice-cream, and—for a brief moment—alcohol were all on the menu.”
Charles Bourland who was in charge of food development and packaging chose sherry as the best wine for space. It was chosen because sherry is a stable product having already been heated during processing therefore less likely to “undergo changes” when repackaged. The winner of the a Sherry taste test was a Paul Masson California Rare Creamy Sherry.
The packaging featured a “flexible plastic pouch with a built-in drinking tube, which could be cut off.” All the astronauts needed to do would be to squeeze the pouch. Astronauts were capped at four ounces of wine every four days. Unfortunately, no wine ever made it to space for two main reasons. Firstly, it was brought on a low gravity plane nicknamed the “Vomit Comet” designed to test weightlessness. “As it turned out, the odors released by the wine, combined with the residual smell of years-worth of people getting sick on the plane, had an unplanned effect on the crew. Many grabbed for their barf bags.” And when surveyed, only about half the crew was interested in having it on-board. Secondly, when Skylab 4 Commandar Gerry Car described alcohol on the menu at a lecture, NASA receives complaints from all over the country.
Of course, the Russians have a different policy. Cognac is sent with them to space because it “stimulates the immune system.” In 2011, a study showed that hypothetically wine with high levels of resveratrol might helped fight bone density loss when in space. Unfortunately neither cognac or sherry are high in that compound.