Red Wine on the Red Planet
The dexterous robots carefully reap the grape harvest with almost surgeon-like precision. The serenity of these autonomous artisans and their vineyard would soon be broken by the bumble of socialites on Mars.
The story of Copeland Winery began in Portola Valley, California in 1986, when Heaven and Michael Copeland opened their first winery. Although Copeland Winery had a promising start, the influx of mass-produced warehouse wines, such as Kirk Valley Wines and Velvet Wine, pushed some smaller, family owned wineries like Copeland out of business. A decade after Heaven and Michael’s winery folded, their granddaughter, Ayesha, sought to reestablish the family business by studying viticulture and winemaking at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. After graduating, Ayesha took what was left from her grandparent’s estate to re-open Copeland Winery in 2020, back in Portola Valley.
Once commercial Martian settlements were sanctioned in 2040, Ayesha Copeland began to consider moving to Mars. She indicated many of the same sentiments of the early Martian Diaspora—generally upper-middle class folks who felt stuck at their income level, feeling a lack of opportunities for economic mobility on Earth.
Armed with a decade of experience in viticulture and winemaking, Copeland made the decision to start a small winery on the Red Planet. Like many early commercial Martian settlers, Copeland took an Endeavor Loan in order to purchase her Mars Shuttle ticket.
“I figured my savings would only be enough to purchase a Shuttle Ticket, or start a business on Mars, but not both. Like a lot of my settler friends, I was surprised and grateful when the Endeavor Loan was announced. I immediately applied and was selected! The loan allowed me to pay my Shuttle Ticket at a nominal interest rate—making my plans on the Red Planet possible.”
Prior to her Shuttle launch window, Copeland had a year to design and develop a farming system that can grow grapes and make wine on Mars. Although Copeland was one of the last farmers in California to use dry-farming techniques (relying only on natural annual rainfall to grow grapes), she sought to create a closed, irrigated farming system. With the help of contracted botanical engineers from Sakana Industries, Copeland developed a farming system to grow grapes and make wine on Mars, which can be 3D printed and assembled using existing materials on the Red Planet.
Once Copeland arrived on Mars, she built a small, operational winery within a month. After building the winery, Copeland began to grow grapes in Martian soil and bottle the wine by hand. In order to amass the capital to expand her operation, Copeland sold these first bottles of wine made on Mars to high-paying customers on Earth. At $400,000 USD per bottle of Martian Red Wine, each bottle was shipped from Mars to Earth in special canisters that maintained suitable temperatures, air composition, pressure, and humidity for interplanetary vino transport. Since the Shuttle launch window to and from Mars is usually once every two years (launches generally take place just before Mars and Earth are at opposition, ensuring the shortest trip duration), Copeland Winery also asked patrons to place an additional $120,000 USD deposit to cover the cost of shipment to Earth.
Element. 399 bottles of her signature Martian Red Wine were reserved by clients on Earth (Copeland gifted one bottle to her parents, who reside in her old Portola Valley home). On the first shipment to Earth in 2042, Copeland successfully delivered all 400 bottles of wine, for a total revenue of around $207,480,000 USD. The profits from her first shipment enabled Copeland to expand her winery on Mars into a large-scale operation.
The introduction of Copeland Winery’s Martian Red Wine has changed the market for wine. Significant demand for wine made on Mars bolstered the high-end wine market as a whole; the prices of high-end wine made on Earth dramatically increased. In fact, the popularity of Copeland Winery also led to a few imitators trying to simulate the Martian environment on Earth, in order to grow wine that tastes similar to Martian Wine for a more affordable price. Copeland points out, however, that these “copycats will never have the ‘Made on Mars’ inscription on their labels.”
After her first blockbuster wine shipment to Earth, Copeland began expanding her wine operation on Mars. She bought a 23 acre plot near Utopia Planitia and contracted Structure Automation to build a new automated system to mass produce wine on Mars. After building a new viticulture system with robotic grape harvesters, the winery increased its yield to around one ton of grapes per acre (for comparison, the lowest yielding vineyards on Earth produce around two tons of grapes per acre, or 1440 bottles). This increase in production has enabled Copeland Winery to begin selling wine to Martian settlers.
55 Sols ago, Copeland opened up her winery on Mars for wine tasting and tours. These activities proved to be a massive hit on the Red Planet, as reservations have been booked up for the next 450 Sols. “Much of my inspiration for the winetasting experience is inspired by my grandparent’s old winery in Portola Valley. The rustic tables, tablecloths, and even the certain musk that pervaded through their farmhouse—everything we do is in memory of them” says Copeland.
Martian food and (now) wine critic Sabine Gorrell highlights that “food and drink are important aspects of culture on Earth. These sensory experiences have developed for generations. The importance of wine on Mars is not just its commercial success, or the innovations concerning winemaking or viticulture on Mars, but the active development of Mars’s own culinary culture and palette.”