Airline Wine: Flights of Wine You Can Drink Without Reservations


If you need nice wine lately you don’t must fly hundreds of miles to get it, you’ll be able to sip it en route. But getting wine to style scrumptious at 30,000 ft isn’t straightforward.

If you’re flying someplace anytime quickly, you’ll discover our chat about airline wines at present uplifting. In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m going to cowl which wines are finest to drink whenever you’re within the air, how your sense of odor and style change, and why airways are paying extra consideration to their wine alternatives on board lately. Enjoy!



  • What would my wine-centric dream flight appear like?
  • How can meals and wine supply airways a aggressive benefit?
  • Have in-flight wine lists developed lately?
  • How does altitude have an effect on your palate?
  • What varieties of issues must be made when airways choose the in-flight wines?
  • What distinctive options have airways developed to enhance the in-flight wine expertise?
  • How do the key airways select their wine alternatives?
  • Why would wineries wish to be on airline wine lists?




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Transcript & Takeaways

Welcome to episode 36!

If you’re flying someplace this summer season, or within the yr to come back, you’ll discover our chat about airline wines at present uplifting. I used to be tempted to name this episode Vertigo Tasting or wine that you would be able to drink with out reservations, however ultimately Flights of Wine Fancy was punny sufficient.

I’m going to cowl which wines are finest to drink whenever you’re 30,000 ft within the air, how your sense of odor and style change, and why airways are paying extra consideration to their wine alternatives on board lately.

Before we dive in, I’d love your assist in spreading the phrase about this podcast. Please submit a evaluate on Apple Podcasts, previously iTunes, or social media. If you try this, let me know and I’ll offer you a shout out on this podcast.

Plus, should you do, I’ll ship a free copy of my Ultimate Food & Wine Pairing Guide. It’s a fast template overlaying the key meals matches for purple, white, rose and dessert wines. It’s visually very interesting and I do know you’ll get tons of use from it. All it’s important to do is submit a evaluate on Apple Podcasts, previously iTunes, or on social media. Then simply electronic mail me at and I’ll ship it to you.

On with the present. Enjoy!

My dream flight begins with the wine choice: “We’d wish to direct your consideration to the wine listing within the seat pocket in entrance of you. You’ll notice we’ve got a positive choice of first-growth Bordeaux on the rear of the aircraft (utilizing the double-arm, two-finger sign), 40-year classic port is being decanted within the center aisles and, for our first-class passengers, a vertical of Chateau d’Yquem 1945 by 1960, on the entrance of the aircraft.

At any time throughout this flight, must you run out of wine, it’s crucial that you just assist your self earlier than aiding different passengers. This will assist scale back total cabin strain to not point out, the stress of your post-merger flight crew. We understand that you just not have a alternative of airways, however drink up, and we’re certain that we’ll all neglect about these terminal delays and misplaced baggage that may actually annoy anybody sober.”

Perhaps my silver-winged sybaritic dream is a stretch, however airline wine is the one side of flying that’s not a potshot goal. In reality, wine lists have improved, fueled by extra savvy prospects in a fiercely aggressive worldwide trade.

Airlines typically have the identical tools, routes, fares and frequent flyer applications, so meals and wine are one of many few methods to precise individuality. That’s why there are extra premium manufacturers on board together with Starbucks espresso, Godiva goodies, Ben & Jerry ice cream and meals created by celeb cooks.

Indeed, British Airways’ analysis reveals that the nearer we get to flying, the extra essential meals and wine turn into. When reserving our ticket, it’s solely the sixth most essential issue. However, after we’re standing in line on the gate to board, it’s quantity two after the perspective of the flight crew.

But let’s not child ourselves about anybody selecting an airline due to the wine as in … Ticket agent: “That’ll be $3,456 for the wine, plus we’ll throw in a return journey to California.” That stated, we’re not pleased to drink a $6 bottle that devours .001 % of our fare.

Ten years in the past, that wasn’t unusual. Wine choice was primarily based totally on worth, and sometimes the identical wine was served yr after yr, even in dangerous vintages. You might select from one undrinkable French white wine or one undrinkable French purple wine, stuff that Peter Nixson of British Airways calls “low-cost and nasty.”

Most of us simply need one thing pleasantly palatable to launch the strain of working to the gate with a 30-pound shoulder bag and excessive heels, or to neglect the large man loud night breathing subsequent to us who has simply rolled his head on to our shoulder.

Getting a wine to style scrumptious at 30,000 ft isn’t straightforward although. After a couple of hours, we get dehydrated. Alcohol’s dehydrating impact compounds this, and we lose as much as 30 % of our capability to style. Wine’s aromas are flattened, and any ingredient that’s out of stability comparable to tannin or acidity is emphasised. The wine hasn’t modified, we’ve got.

British Airways as soon as invited a number of wine writers to blind style a gaggle of wines on the Heathrow airport, extra wines whereas flying aboard the Concorde to Barbados after which one other set of wines as soon as in a resort in Barbados, the place the poor souls accomplished their gruelling day.

They unanimously judged one of the best wines have been those in Barbados, adopted by these at Heathrow after which these tasted whereas flying. Turns out, after all, the identical wines have been served in all three tastings.

Before the wine even will get on board, it should survive the labyrinthine logistics of hundreds of flights and locations. Ken Chase, who has consulted with Delta Airlines, admits to doing unusual issues with wine, comparable to heating, chilling and shaking it, to make sure that the wine can stand up to the cooking on the tarmac in Mexico or being rickshawed by bumpy streets in Bangkok.

Will the wine nonetheless carry out in your glass after it’s been rerouted by Iceland? Fortunately, most airways have a community of temperature-controlled warehouses the place they construct the bar carts. British Airways, for instance, has sixty bar-building stations world wide.

Then there are the impoverished instruments of airline wine service: correct stemware and crystal decanters are out of the query given storage constraints and glass breakage, leaving us with these little plastic capsule cups. Both British Airways and United Airlines are creating specifically designed tasting glasses with shorter stems and higher form to pay attention the aromas.

To compensate for pressurized cabins, British Airways has additionally created its personal mix of champagne that’s bottled at a decrease strain. But that also leaves cramped quarters and turbulence. (Would you want just a little extra claret in your shirt sir?)

The different a part of wine service is the server. It’s reassuring to know that wine coaching is reasonably low on the precedence listing for flight crew given the conditions they face. (Would you really need them distracting hijackers with overoaked chardonnays?)

However, most airways squeeze in a couple of hours on wine coaching. Beyond that, they use in-flight wine guides with tasting notes, pronunciations and meals matches.

British Airways additional encourages workers to hunt exterior coaching by paying for wine programs. A thousand of their attendants who’ve handed a sommelier examination and put on a lapel pin indicating that they will reply passenger wine questions. The most rigorous coaching is Delta’s in-house Vinum Wine Academy: a seven-day course overlaying meals and wine that runs from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Working with these constraints, airline wine patrons search for fats, fruit-forward wines from Australia, southern France, Chile and California, reasonably than delicate or outdated wines. Aside from being fairly priced, these wines must be accessible in huge portions. United buys 400,000 circumstances yearly whereas Air Canada purchases 60,000 circumstances (smaller airways can store from smaller, high quality producers).

To make their remaining alternatives, some airways function the wines made of their dwelling nation whereas others supply route-specific decisions in order that passengers get a style of the vacation spot after they board the aircraft. Air Canada serves purple and white kosher wines en path to Tel Aviv, saké when flying to Asian locations.

United gives wines that passengers can discover simply at dwelling. Many airways use an out of doors tasting panel to make the ultimate decisions. The enological literati advises British Airways: Hugh Johnson, Michael Broadbent and Jancis Robinson (who says in her memoir that after gushing about being invited to take part on such an august panel, she obtained the deflating clarification from the British Airways rep: “Well, we thought we wanted a girl.”).

Robinson additionally writes that panel tasting has the smudging impact of eliminating distinctive wine given that somebody within the group is probably going to not like an excessive fashion. This drags wine decisions into the “innocuous center floor of communal evaluation” to please everybody, which is good for airways, however not for wine lovers who’re higher off following one critic they belief.

Of course, essentially the most distinctive wine is served in enterprise and first-class. The crème de la crème was British Airways’ Concorde Cellar which consisted of mature, cru classé purple Bordeaux, grand and premier cru purple and white Burgundy and a cuvée champagne. The cellar held ten years’ alternatives for ageing. Benchmark wines crammed the listing comparable to Krug, Heidsieck, Pol Roger and Dom Pérignon, the latter of which the airline was the only largest purchaser on the planet.

The airline additionally featured one of the best of the New World comparable to Penfolds Grange, Opus One and Kistler. When the Concorde took its final flight in 2003, wine lovers world wide shed a couple of tears, properly at the very least, the wealthy ones did.

To acknowledge excellence in airline wine lists, Business Traveler journal sponsors an annual competitors referred to as Cellars within the Sky. When Finnair received, it was spending two-thirds of its wine funds on enterprise class, which nonetheless solely accounts for about 4% of a enterprise class ticket. The airline shares a median of 600 totally different labels in its cellars.

For wineries, getting on airline lists not solely means revenues that don’t eat into floor gross sales, it’s additionally a global sampling program. Australian winemaker Wolf Bass acknowledged the promotion potential early on, and held wine tasting periods with captive first-class audiences every time he flew. He was additionally recognized to have himself paged steadily in airport lounges in order that his title was top-of-mind with duty-free consumers.

Even with these modifications, we aren’t precisely within the Golden Age of airline wine. But we are able to anticipate to see the standard enhance, with much less conservative decisions. British Airways, for instance, is experimenting with natural wines, Alsatian rieslings, Romanian reds and Austrian pinot blancs.

The airways additionally plan to package deal extra data with their wines. This could imply watching a brief video on the wines being served, maybe an professional tasting session (which provides new that means to flights of wine) or a journey piece on the area the place the wines have been produced.

This may prolong to interactive web-based periods, the place passengers can discover data on the wines as deeply as they need. Delta already consists of its wine listing on its web site, and in its wine information, evaluations a number of wine web sites for “cybersipping”.

If you need nice wine lately you don’t must fly hundreds of miles to get it, you’ll be able to sip it en route. Now if they may simply repair the stuff that may damage glass pinot noir.

Did you realize that you would be able to now hearken to this podcast in your sensible speaker? Just say: “Hey Google” or for Amazon’s Echo, use her title that begins with A … I received’t say it now because it’ll set off your system and mine.

So I’ll say Madame A as in “Madam A — play the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast.” I’d love to talk about wine with you when you’re enjoying solitaire, ready on your facial masks to dry or macraming a brand new lampshade … it’s all the time wine time.

You’ll discover hyperlinks to the airline wine lists I discussed within the present notes at as properly hyperlinks to as my favorite wines to drink once I’m flying.

What was your favorite tip or quote from this episode? Share that with me on Twitter or Facebook and tag me @nataliemaclean, on Instagram I’m @nataliemacleanwine.

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I can’t wait to share extra wine tales with you.

Thank you for taking the time to hearken to this one. I hope one thing nice is in your glass this week and everytime you fly!



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