Best over-the-top airline experiences for oenophiles
Here are some of the best airlines to consider if you are a wine lover.
There are many things to help you get through a long-haul flight: good company, excellent playlist and a comfy bed.
Sometimes overlooked and often questioned is the wine list at 35,000ft in the air. Is it actually possible to have a good wine experience in the air? With more airlines looking to ramp up their catering service for First and Business Class flyers, the answer is surprisingly yes.
Here are some of the best airlines to consider if you are a self-professed wine lover looking to kill time and pass your travel time quicker with a good glass of bubbly, strong red or chilled white.
Singapore Airlines has always prided itself as an airline for oenophiles and has had a wine panel since 1989. Consistently rated as the “Best Overall Cellar at the Cellars in the Sky Awards” last year, the in-house sommeliers taste more than 1,000 wines each year which include New World, Old World and also many Aussie wines like Clonakilla O’Riada Shiraz and also Giant Steps Chardonnay 2018, as well as Dr. Loosen’s graacher Himmelreich Riesling from Mosel.
Earlier this year British Airways revealed a wine focused program which will take passengers on a “wine flight” and have a different destination of wine on an alternating menu. Together with the newly appointed Master of Wine, Tim Jackson MW, new wines will be sourced and curated by the expert, which will include Sauvignon Blanc, Pinots and “sparkling” options. Also on the list there will be British beers and classic gins. A highlight for first-class passengers has to be the wine program which takes you across the world: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Central Otago, Champagne and Rioja.
Back in 2015, ANA went through an extensive wine list test and narrowed more than 2,400 labels to just 300, which took more than six months to do. The panel has since been working hard on curating the “best” drinks list for guests, which include wine, sake and even matcha tea. Satoru Mori, currently headlines the expert list, which includes KRUG wine on all their First-Class flights as well as top pours from Piedmont, Stellenbosch, Champagne, Rheingau and Burgundy. A highlight on all first-class flights is definitely trying the lesser-known wineries in Japan like Aruga Branca Issehara – wonder when paired with a soy-based sauce found on most ANA flights when fish is on the menu.
South America has some excellent pours, so it is no wonder LATAM Airline Group has a master sommelier, Hector Vergara, tasting more than 500 bottles a year for passengers to enjoy. Standouts in the past include: Errazuriz’s Wild Ferment Pinot Noir from Casablanca or Morandé’s Gran Reserva Syrah from the Maule Valley which can be found on all Business Class flights.
Japan Airlines has a Champagne Salon – did you know that? Known as the airline with the best champagne in its First Class Cabins, since 2022, it has also the most expensive serving Salon for USD775, which is served only on First Class flights from Japan. On all other routes, you do get the ho-hum Louis Roederer Cristal 2014 or Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Grands if you like your bubbly.
Did you know that Air France serves free champagne on all their international flights? Apparently, Air France says the reason is that Champagne is part of Air France’s DNA – fair enough! With the world’s best sommelier for 2013, Paolo Basso, curating the wine list, you will always have excellent champagne and wine on their aircraft. Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2007 is always available on First Class.
If you want to learn more about Australia’s wine industry, you just need to jump onboard a Qantas flight. Apparently, the airline is one of the biggest supporters of Aussie wine producers and currently has more than 200 wine producers on their flights and in their lounges. The sommeliers from Neil Perry’s restaurants consult with the airline, and there are even sommeliers in some of the lounges to offer consultations when needed. Highlights include Yarra Yering, Penfolds RWT Shiraz and Balnaves 2004 The Tally Cabernet Sauvignon.