How to choose a premium wine that holds its body and flavour in the air.
Gone are the days when air passengers had the simple choice between chicken and beef when ordering their in-flight meal.
Today’s airlines put catering high on their list of priorities as discerning palates demand an increasing level of quality – especially in terms of wine.
According to wine connoisseurs and airline experts, the aviation world purchases several million gallons of wine annually and with many operators providing the finest vintages on offer, airline budgets can go into millions of dollars.
But wines of the sky are selected differently to conventional wine lists as at high altitudes the human taste palette changes, and so the sommeliers of the skies must combat this disparity while offering delicious wine.
Years ago, airlines used to select wines on price and supply, followed by quality. But given the increased appreciation, airlines are now looking to master sommeliers and international winemakers to increase their catering reputation and the wine list can now make the difference between retaining and losing a passenger’s custom.
The altitude and cabin pressure tends to dull the senses slightly, making in flight tasting essential when compiling a wine list.
Wines can be affected by pressurised, drier cabin air on planes as bitterness and tannins are accentuated, while fruit flavours can often be diminished.
Low alcohol content keeps passengers from rolling into the aisles and also minimises the nasty effects of jet lag. Quality is established through blind tasting at high altitudes to ensure the perfect in flight wine.
Cost and supply are less of an issue in airline wine selection, as the many international winemakers clamber for inclusion in the carts of the world’s top airlines.
With its focus on customer experience, Etihad Airways has paid great attention over the years to its premium wine list.
The airline is proud of its ‘boutique’ wines which are chosen from smaller vineyards. Etihad Airways also employs specialist Food & Beverage Managers to help passengers choose the right wine to pair with their meal.
Fine flying-proof wines from Etihad Airways
Chateau de Chassagne-Montrachet AOP Saint Aubin 1er Cru, “Le Charmois,” 2008, Burgundy, France
This medium-bodied, buttery wine is characterised by a light oak-like bouquet, meaning the tannins are low and ideal for a flight.
Terrazas de los Andes Reserva Torrontés 2011, Salta, Argentina
Intense fruit notes and excellent acidity levels allow this classic wine to retain its punch in the air.
Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Marlborough, New Zealand
This wine boasts great mid-palate weight and balanced acidity, both key attributes for a top in-flight tipple.
Segla 2008 Margaux, Bordeaux, France
This rich, full-bodied wine boasts an intense berry fruit flavour coupled with low tannins.
George Wyndham Founders’s Reserve Shiraz 2010, Langhorne Creek, South Australia
This black fruit-flavoured wine is medium-long and low in tannin. The concentrated fruit aromas are balanced by subtle oak.