The meteorite in question, Hutchinson claims, is roughly three inches in diameter, 4.5 billion years old, and likely hails from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It crashed in Chile’s Atacama Desert some 6,000 year ago. Technically the meteorite belongs to “an American collector,” who didn’t seem to mind having his priceless piece of space rock marinate in a wooden barrel of red wine for 12 months.
That’s how long it took to complete something called “malolactic fermentation”: it’s a process that takes place after the primary fermentation. The first stage of the wine-making process — after harvesting the grapes, that is, which in this case come from Hutchinson’s Tremonte Vineyard southwest of Santiago — converts grape sugar into alcohol via yeast. This takes around 25 days.
The next stage, malolactic fermentation, is achieved by lactic acid bacteria, notably Oenococcus oeni. There are others, of course, but the Aroma Dictionary informs me that this bacteria in particular “typically processes substances that have pleasant and wine sympathetic aromas and flavors.” And those flavors are imparted to the wine as it ages in a wooden barrel.