The glass of bubbly you’re offered in business and first class while you sit at the gate after boarding is the only time you will taste a wine with your palate in full working order on an aircraft. As soon as you head into the deep blue sky, funny things happen to your tastebuds as you dehydrate at altitude.
Here at Lunch Magazine we feel it’s vitally important airlines put plenty of thought into their wine lists as we adore alcohol with altitude. What tastes pretty good standing around a tasting table down on terra firma can often reflect what you’re travelling in (a tin can) at 30,000 feet. Taking this into account we humbly suggest all research into airline wine lists should be done on a long haul flight with seasoned aircraft drinkers such as … us.
As for drinking in the air, it’s probably best to start with still water (not sparkling) to get the palate into full working order and then match a glass of water to every two glasses of wine. After about four you’ve probably had enough and it’s time to call for the cognac.
When it comes to the best wine in the air British Airways’ business class only airline OpenSkies (operating between the US east coast and Paris) was a big winner in this year’s Global Traveler’s 2011 Wines on the Wing airline wine competition as was Asiana Airlines.
This year, 28 airlines throughout the world submitted 136 wines from their current international business-class, international first-class and North America lists. Thirty-one professional judges tasted, tested and rated them. And when the results were tallied, it was OpenSkies whose total wine score was the highest among international business-class competitors and Asiana Airlines whose score topped all other international first-class competitors.
Theirs were highly competitive wins. OpenSkies rode into first place a bare .51 of a point ahead of Qatar Airways, and Asiana Airlines was only 3.58 points in front of TAM Airlines of Brazil.
As for leading Wines on the Wing, OpenSkies commercial and marketing director, David Erich said the airline was extremely proud to be recognized by Global Traveler’s expert panel of judges.
“We try to find the best wines we can. We choose them through a blind tasting of about 100 wines and Champagnes. We change our wine list on board twice a year and often have other special onboard wine events.”
In the champagne stakes, V Australia won the International Business contest with Lanson Gold Label Brut 1999, which the judges called rich, complex, delicious and flavoursome.
In the International First Class Champagne contest, Asiana Airlines came in first with Comtes de Taittinger Blanc de Blancs 1999, earning such judgments as “elegant with balanced acidity” and “both delicate citrus and toasty notes.”
Other winners included EL AL Israel Airlines’ Carmel Winery Gewürztraminer from Israel in the International First Class white wine category and Etihad Airways won the International Business Class award for best white with Dr Fischer Riesling, Germany.
There was a tie for the top red wine in International First Class between Asiana’s Château Gruaud Larose and Lufthansa’s Astrales Ribera del Duero from Spain.
In International Business Class, TAP Air Portugal won first place with its red Portuguese entry, Casa de Santa Dão Reserva, a wine that judges called complex, very well balanced and savory.