Most airlines today operate the same planes, fly the same routes, and feature the same frequent flyer programmes. There are only a few ways to differentiate their product: price, service, food quality and beverages offered.
British Airways researchers determined that for most passengers, the closer the flight date gets the more important food and wine become.
A decade ago, most airlines chose their wines based on price. Of course, the French, Germans and Italians stuck to their wines the rest went with price, and predictably served substandard wines
Airlines of tropical countries generally select Australian and European, sometimes American wines, but make a serious error in paying no attention to the adequacy of storage temperatures. In practically all cases, airlines operated by countries with hot climates serve oxidized wines. Even their tasting panel members have no idea how storage and service temperature affect the taste of wine.
During a recent flight from Sri Lanka to London, I had the opportunity to taste six different wines. All were oxidized and service crew had no idea about oxidization and/or wine altogether.
I believe all airlines, particularly those flying long distances would benefit by offering pleasant, light and sound wines in economy class and fine products in both business/ first class.
The human body dehydrates at 10,000 meters altitude faster than on earth rendering dry the nose mucus which in turn reduces olfactory sensitivity by as much as 30 percent.
Aromas come across flat, tannins and acids become more acute! While the wine remains the same our perception of it changes dramatically!
The logistics to get any wine into scheduled aircraft are complicated and fraught with all kinds of problems. All wines and alcoholic beverages are stored in duty free zone warehouses, and may be on the tarmac for hours on end under a blazing sun. Wines subjected to excessive heat, oxidize, an irreversible chemical process.
The first thing a responsible airline wine buyer must do is ask suppliers to provide samples that have been properly warehoused, and with guarantees that it will be delivered as presented should the panel choose the submitted product
British Airways maintains 60 temperature controlled warehouses for wines throughout the world, Lufthansa half that.
All wines must be tasted “blind” and by a panel composed of a representative cross-section of the clientele.
Wine served in plastic cups never taste great, even if the wine is fine or very fine.
buyers are advised to select fruit forward high-alcohol wines to compensate for diminishing olfactory acuity.
Fruit forward wines will still smell aromatic enough at 10,000 metres to provide at least some pleasure, and high alcohol wines withstand the constant vibrations better than those with low alcohol.
It is better to have a small but fine selection than a large and poor assortment considering the fact that large American airlines can go through 400,000 cases a year and smaller companies up to 50,000.
For large airlines, i.e. American Airlines, United, British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France it is best to stick with large wineries known for quality and consistency. Small airlines are better off with small wineries.
Some airlines offer route specific choices, i.e. kosher wines flying to Israel, and sake while serving Tokyo or Kyoto.
Fine wines must be on hand for first class cabin passengers.
Most airlines employ expert panels, but the selection in countries with little or no wine culture the composition is more often than not is hit and miss.
Korean Air, Northwest Airlines, Finnair, Iberia and Singapore Airlines are known for their high quality wines. Finnair spends a lot of money for business/first class wine lists.
I believe airlines will be well served by starting to build temperature-controlled warehouses in strategic airports, or contract suppliers prepared to store their inventories in appropriate cellars and buy wines on flavour, depth, alcohol and aftertaste.
Taste wines “blind” by a panel consisting of wine connoisseurs and experts.
Stick with wines that have an overall appeal, rather than trying to please a small market segment.
Here are some Airlines wines
worth considering for first /business class:
Sparkling wines: Krug, Grand Cuvee, Heidsieck-Monopole Brut Millesime, Dom Perignon by Moet et Chandon, Lanson Black Label.
Economy: Trius from Hillebrand (Canada), Segura Viudas Brut (Spain) and Henkell Trocken (Germany).
Red wines (First class/business) Chateau Lynch Bages; Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, R. Mondavi; Silver Oak; Crozes-Hermitage M. Chapoutier.
Red wines economy: Chateau Souverain Merlot (France), Cabernet Sauvignon Alden Vineyard Rodney Strong (California); Cabernet Franc, Vineland Estates (Canada), Escudo Roja Baron de Rothschild (Chile), Shiraz, Bellingham (South Africa).
White wines first/business class: Chablis Valmur, W. Fevre (France); Riesling Delaine Vineyard, Jackson-Triggs (Canada); Gewurztraminer,A.Mann (France), Sauvignon Blanc , Cloudy Bay New Zealand).
Economy Class: Dry Riesling Vineland Estates; (Canada) Sancerre, H. Bourgeois (France), Sauvignon Blanc, Babich, (New Zealand), Chardonnay Reif (Canada), Riesling, Hugel, Gentil Hugel (France).
Port wines; Taylor’s LBV or Vintage; Warre’s Reserve Tawny Port 10 years.
|Writer – Hrayr Berberoglu – E-mail – Read his books?
Professor B offers seminars to companies and interested parties on any category of wine, chocolates, chocolates and wine, olive oils, vinegars and dressings, at a reasonable cost.