British wine critic Jancis Robinson recently mused in the Financial Times about her lavish experience as a wine reviewer for British Airways. Though she resigned from the position in 2010, Robinson sums up which airlines have the best wines.
Singapore Airlines, she writes, gathers a group of wine experts such as Oz Clarke, Jeannie Cho Lee, and Australian Master of Wine Michael Hill Smith to “spend a week choosing from hundreds of possibilities.”
Cathay Pacific, and other Middle Eastern airlines, “have the finest wine selections in the air” — on an Emirates flight, you’re likely to find first-growth Bordeaux in first class, and possibly second-growth Bordeaux in business class. Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways “are not far behind,” she writes, in terms of their high-end wine selections.
American Airlines, Robinson writes, “is reported to have improved,” while British Airways and Virgin Airways are among the least appealing for wine connoisseurs.
Another airline wine expert Charles Metcalfe recently selected Qantas, an Australian carrier, as this year’s winner for best wine selection. Interestingly, the Qantas Inflight Wine Program, according to its website, almost exclusively offers Australian wines, with Champagne and New Zealand labels on select flights.
Metcalfe makes some suggestions for choosing your next inflight wine.
A Guide to Airline Wine, According to an Expert
- Go for the Bordeaux. Metcalfe says the “riper, rounder” characteristics of recent vintages are especially suited to airborne imbibing.
- New Zealand is a safe bet. Whether it’s the grassy, crisp flavors of a Sauvignon Blanc or a rich, fruity Pinot Noir, wines from this region are “easy to appreciate,” he writes.
- Get adventurous. For those willing to drink adventurously, airlines are including “fun” picks from Italy, Spain, and Portugal.
And, rest assured, “squeezed budgets aren’t a problem,” Metcalfe writes. “You can find very good wines at lower prices.” Here’s to hoping.