Wines Of The Sky: Airline Wine Trends

Gone are the days of choices between chicken and beef. Today’s airlines put almost as much thought into their catering as they do their safety routines and discerning palates demand an increasing level of quality - especially in terms of wine.

Wines of the sky are selected differently to conventional wine lists. In days gone by, 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.

The altitude and cabin pressure tends to dull the senses slightly, making in flight tasting essential when compiling a wine list. Low alcohol contents keep passengers from rolling into the aisles and also to minimise 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.

Delta Airlines
Delta Airlines recently appointed Andrea Robinson, dean of wine studies at New York's French Culinary Institute, as onboard wine consultant. In the past, the airline has also employed the expertise of Kenneth Chase, a Canadian master Sommelier who has also worked on wine lists for Wardair & Canadian Airlines.

Air France
Based in Paris, Air France's wine selection mostly features wines from the various French wine regions - and why not? The world’s best sommelier in 2000, Olivier Poussier helped Air France shape the perfect French wine list for high flying appreciation. Poussier examined over 650 wines, while Air France also guided the staff towards finer points of wine and champagne presentation and appreciation.

Royal Jordanian Air
The South African Hazendal Shiraz 2003 was recently selected for all international business class flights on Royal Jordanian Air. The celebrated Hazendal Wine Estate’s Chenin Blanc 2007 was also recently selected as the wine aboard national flights on Comair/British Airways in South Africa. Hazendal Wines have also been associated with KLM and South African Airways.

South African Airways
The multi-award winning Fleur du Cap Unfiltered Sauvignon Blanc 2007 was recently chosen by South African Airways, otherwise referred to as SAA, as their flagship white wine.

British Airways
The biggest airline carrier in the UK, British Airways is extremely proud of their wine selection - so much so that the British Airways Wine Club awards flying miles for cases purchased. Over the years, British Airways have been nominated for many awards for their in flight wine lists; including best fortified or sweet, best white, best sparkling.

Virgin Atlantic
As quick to follow trends as well as start them, Virgin Atlantic's onboard wine selection was selected with the guidance of Berrys Bros. & Rudd. Britain's oldest wine merchant, Berrys Bros. & Rudd have been in business for over 300 years and have been the wine suppliers to the British Royal family for many years.

The Finnish air carrier, Finnair, recently had their business class wine list lauded as the runner up in an international airline wine selection competition. Finishing a close second, Finnair received various other awards including best champagne or sparkling wine for their Joseph Perrier Champagne Cuvée Royale Brut Millésime 2000.

Swiss International Airlines
Not to be outdone, Swiss International Airlines have their own wine awards - selecting the best wines from around the world and providing them with global exposure. The award winning wines include French and South African products, such as the Saronsberg Cellar Provenance Shiraz 2005 which was recently awarded the gold medal.

American Airlines
With the help of Diane Teitelbaum, international wine critic, appraiser, appreciator and selector, American Airlines have created the perfect wine list for its many international destinations. For example, Dragons Hollow Cabernet Sauvignon is served en route to or from China, while Val di Suga Brunello di Montalcino is served when travelling to or from Italy on American Airlines.

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About The Author, Damian Burke
The Hazendal Wine Estate lies between Cape Town and Stellenbosch in the breathtakingly beautiful Cape Winelands. A unique blend of Russian inspiration and Cape Dutch style, the estate is also home to the Marvol Museum of Russian Art and Culture, fantastic wine tastings and the Hermitage Restaurant.