The exclusive room at Christie’s Auction House vibrated with anticipation. Each of the twenty participants had to have placed in escrow, a minimum of ten million dollars. Many had promised many times that, just in case.
Identification was checked against Christie’s database as each person entered, bodyguards and agents were not allowed. The unique items on display represented a first in Human history, just being in the room was a privilege.
The auctioneer approached the podium. The richly paneled room hushed to silence. He pulled out a pair of half-round spectacles, blew imaginary lint from the lenses and placed them on his nose. To his right, through a dark archway, he motioned for a steward to approach pushing a trolley.
“As we are all aware, this exclusive, available only through Christie’s auction, represents a first for London, England and the world.” He chuckled to himself. “And I suppose the solar system.” A few of the participants tittered in support.
He went on to speak of the history, effort and expense involved with bringing the items on auction to this revered establishment. As he spoke waiters swarmed between the chairs carrying trays of champagne. At a look they all vanished behind cleverly designed blinds.
“First up, may I introduce the sponsor of this particular offering, Charles “Charlie” Krug the Fifth. Charlie, do join me here. Yes, just to the side. Excellent. The room is yours.”
Charles Krug, descendant from the venerable California winery, gave the room a once over. “Enough delay, yeah?” Charlie grabbed the top of the linen sheet draped over the trolley, yanked it off and tossed it behind him. “Get a load of this. Martian Merlot.”
The men in the room gripped their flutes between their legs and gave Charlie an enthusiastic round of applause. The few women clinked rings against their glass. One, a severe looking woman with close-cropped hair, wearing a grey suit, her white blouse open nearly to her navel, gave Charlie a skeptical gaze.
Charlie continued, “This wine comes to you all the way from Valles Marineris. Even the bottles are made from Martian sand.” The case, larger than normal, built to insulate the bottles from light and shock, sat on top of the trolley. “We’ve brought this case, a sample really, as our first inaugural sale.”
He went on to explain how the wine came to be. Pulling a bottle from the case, he walked the room displaying the unique reddish tint of the glass. He spoke of the trip to and from, the site selection, the ten years of experimentation in soil cleansing—Martian regolith contains toxic salts, the aerogel domes they used to trap the heat and pressurize the atmosphere. It ended up being too much information for most.
Charlie could have spoken all afternoon. But the auctioneer had a time schedule. “That’s a wonderful story, Mr. Krug. What do you say we start the bidding?”
With nods all around, he consulted his tablet and began. “Valles Marineris Winery has placed a reserve price of five-hundred thousand per bottle. A more than fair price, I would say, given the rarity of this vintage. Let’s start the bidding at…”
“How do we know it’s any good?” The dubious woman in the front said. “I’d hate to buy a case of this stuff and find out it tastes like shit.”
The auctioneer peered over his glasses at Charlie who’d just settled the bottle back in its cubby-hole. Charlie said, “It’s got woody, blackberry notes. A bit sweet as it’s got Malvasia and Merlot heritage. I sampled this very batch before bottling and catching the ride back to Earth.”
“I’ll put up a hundred K for a sip.” The woman stood and pointed at someone she apparently knew. “Sam, you in? What about you Dorothy?” She canted her head toward the stage. “We all put in a hundred, we all get a sip, yeah?”
Charlie worked the math. “I’m good with that.”
The room agreed.
Aperitif glasses were found and arrayed on a tray. Charlie unscrewed the cap—Earthly cork would have ruined the other-worldliness—and dribbled a finger’s worth in each glass. He seized the honor of offering a glass to each guest and when all had received their sample, he lifted his own and made a toast.
“To viticulture of the future.”
The woman, standing next to Charlie, spit hers all over his shoes. “That’s some expensive vinegar.”
Charlie choked his down. “Who are you?”
“Elania Musk. I bid fifteen mil for the case. What’s left of it.”
“It was bound to go bad. This way, we keep the good stuff on Mars. And I keep your reputation intact. Martian goods are for Martians. Or so my grandfather would insist.”