Once upon a time, glamour ruled the air. Now in the highly competitive days of budget travel, having a drink on board is more about trying to remain as calm and comfortable as possible, a tool to block out the whole distressing experience until landing.
Judging 15 airlines’ Economy wines, I was surprised to find a few Airlines managed
cared to squeeze the last few drops of glamour left in the flying experience: the wine.
But it is the very last drops.
Without the aura of glamour, too often the reality is not pleasant: why even pour a NV Vin du Headache? Just suck the metal screwcap to get the last drops of a recognisable wine from something sharp and nasty and you pretty much have most experiences I have in Economy.
For budget-strapped airlines, wine in Economy is chosen for everything other than what is in the glass: logistics, volume and price.
Before the tasting, I cleared my mind of bad experience of on-board wines (don’t ask) and judged the 12 reds and 12 whites as if tasted at 30,000 feet with cabin pressure at 8,000 feet. The results were surprising…
|White Wine||Red Wine|
|1. Easyjet||Louis Mondeville Cotes de Gasgogne (France)||1. British Airways||Argento Malbec (Argentina)|
|2. SAS||Crusan Colombard Sauvignon Cotes de Gasgogne (France)||2. Emirates||Weighbridge Shiraz by Peter Lehmann (Australia)|
|3. Virgin||Paul Sapin, Florinda Airen Sauvignon Blanc (Spain)||3. Air France||Coulers du Sud Syrah Pays d’Oc (France)|
|4. KLM||Terra Andina Sauvignon Blanc Chardonnay (Chile)||4. KLM||Terra Andina Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot (Chile)|
|5. Ryanair||Garganega Trebbiano Villa Cardini (Italy)||5. Virgin||Paul Sapin, Florinda Airen Cabernet Sauvignon (Spain).|
Surprise – Easyjet wins the top white by a mile. Of course, wine is not provided for free on board, but the bright and cheerful fruit flavours of Cotes de Gasgogne are a clear winner at 30,000 feet. SAS (Scandinavian Airlines) scored second, also with a Cotes de Gasgogne white.
The reds did better with the major carriers. The Argento Malbec is an excellent wine for Economy and I am surprised they have the volume to supply British Airways. I do LOVE the Bloody Mary Mix on British Airways, but if I am travelling long-haul, it is good to know they have the Argento Malbec to have with a meal.
The effect of air-pressure and air quality on a plane generally reduces the fruit flavours and increases the woody, dry “oak” flavours, partly because of the physiological effect of the taster (reduced blood flow and sense of taste) or the effect of pressure on the wine itself.
Wine onboard is about personality and does it grab your attention immediately in a confined and stressful space. I was also looking for wines which did not have a metallic aftertaste or obvious acidity.
Overall, the big fruit styles did well in both red and white. I’d drink white on budget carriers and reds on major carriers. This was a surprising tasting. At least, knowing the results, I will not be afraid to have a glass of wine, relax and enjoy the flight.
* My favourite wine of the tasting was a Primitivo served on…. Aeroflot. Hold me back! Can you imagine how much I wanted to write: AEROFLOT WINS BEST ECONOMY WINE. Unfortunately, it had to be pulled from the competition for being served in Business Class rather than Economy. Still, it proves the big styles rule the air for better in-flight entertainment.