These are the best wines available for an on-flight tipple
I love an airport, but why do they unleash our feral side? Asking for a friend.
It’s like we’re in Lord Of The Flies, with kids turning demonic from boredom and frazzled adults losing the plot trying to get through security, myself included.
Yes, belt buckles and laptops are metallic and will set off the buzzer.
After hours of carnage and frayed nerves, we’re officially traumatised and need the cabin crew to short-haul themselves to our seat and take our drinks order.
Granted, by that stage we’ll pretty much guzzle anything, but the last thing we need is terrible wine.
Too bad then that many wines we enjoy on land don’t taste the same in the sky. Cabernet-based Bordeaux lean towards tasting harsh and drying, Pinot Grigios resemble lightly flavoured water, and bone-dry Provence Rosés can feel like you’re swallowing Edward Scissorhands.
Why, though? Low air pressure and 20-30% less humidity reduce food and drinks’ aromas by around 30%, making them disappear faster whilst muting our taste receptors by drying them out. Spicy, sour and bitter flavours don’t change drastically, but seem both more bitter and more acidic without the balance of fruit flavours.
Coupled with the background engine noise, which curbs our ability to taste, no wonder airlines hire teams of specialised tasters to write their wine lists.
Useful hacks include choosing wines with expressive fruit flavours which will hold their own, so grape varieties like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec and Merlot will serve you well.
Choose countries like Argentina, Chile and areas like the Rhône Valley and South Africa’s Western Cape, because wines produced at high-altitude perform well in the air. As for sparkling wine, the bubbles hold 30 times more aroma than the liquid so it’s always a safe option, though they tend to stick to the side of the glass, so remember to give it a swirl.
Further notes to self: get to the front of the plane where there’s allegedly more humidity; Heston Blumenthal even suggests douching your nose to prevent it from drying. Savoury flavours are the best antidote to loud noise and opt for a sweeter wine if stress is blocking your appreciation of flavours. Yes, that’s also a thing…
Bubbly: The Uncommon Gerald
This is my recommendation for sipping on land, sea, air or in space for that matter. A brand-new addition to BA’s onboard wine list and shows their buying team have their wits about them.
The Uncommon have been the lynchpin for introducing luxury canned wine into the UK, with sustainable credentials coming out of their ears, including B-Corp certification. These downright delicious Braeburn and elderflower-flavoured bubbles are a mile high must-sip.
Buy it on British Airways, or for £3.99/can, from Waitrose.
Bubbly: Hambledon Classic Cuvée
Finding this classic Hampshire sparkling in the clouds is like being reunited with your favourite comfort blanket. Even on land, it’s a go-to English fizz, made by the first commercially established vineyard in the UK.
Hambledon started making wines in 1952 and thank Bacchus’s beard they did. Made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, this spends a whopping 35 months on the yeast lees for apple pie and preserved lemon-flavoured bubbles.
Buy it on Virgin Atlantic, or for £30 from M&S.
White: Esk Valley Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
Remember when I suggested ordering something fruity? Well, Marlborough Sauvignon is the wine equivalent of chowing down on a tropical beach breakfast whilst swinging in a hammock.
With punchy layers of papaya and passion fruit flavours, Kiwi Sauvignon won’t be drowned out by low pressure, poor humidity or loud noise. The true definition of that sought- after style with a dab of Sicilian lemon zest for good measure.
Buy it on Qatar Airways, or for £12.99 from Cambridge Wine.
Red: Shiraz Two Hands Angels Share
If I had a penny for every time I didn’t set up a winery after a tipsy chat at a party, I’d be rich. Founders Michael and Richard did, though, proving that it’s actually a pretty decent idea.
They aimed to produce Shiraz-based wines from prized regions in Australia, getting away from the formulaic Aussie Shiraz style. From McLaren Vale, this has luscious blue fruit flavours over dark chocolate and soused morello cherries.
Buy it on Etihad flights, or £14.99 (mix 6) from Majestic.
Rosé: Domaines Ott Château Romassan Bandol
Fine, I may have advised not to drink Provence rosé on a plane but hear me out. The Bandol appellation is different, one of the oldest in Provence, known for producing ripe, fruity wines that match well with food.
You’ll clock the difference if you do a blind tasting against other Provence rosés, for research purposes, obviously. Ott is lighter in style, its vineyards planted higher up and owned by Roederer, the Champagne house behind Cristal.
Buy it on Qatar Airways, or £29.99 (reduced from £36.99) from Waitrose Cellar.
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