When airlines began eliminating meals on all but genuinely long haul flights and then began charging for “alternative” meal options—not to mention charging for the privilege of checking your bags—could a discounted quality of wines in Business and First Class be far behind? It’s not been an easy couple of years for the airline industry but these in-flight sips prove that—with the exception of Ryanair, which is considering charging for use of the loo as a revenue booster—the push to acquire the international business traveler is still a key marketing strategy, requiring top-notch wine choices.
British Airways BA’s white selection is quality-driven, with a Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve; Pol Roger 1999 Brut; Hahn Estates 2006 Chardonnay (Monterey), A to Z 2007 Pinot Gris (Oregon) and a Michel Redde 2006 Pouilly-Fumé La Moynerie. Les Clos des Charron 2006 Meursault, a Pazo Señorans 2007 Albariño and a Ferrari-Carano 2006 Chardonnay add to the appeal. Chosen by Jancis Robinson, editor of the Oxford Companion to Wine, the BA reds are no less diverse, with an Artesa 2005 Meritage (Napa/Sonoma) and a Crozes-Hermitage 2007 in Business Class and a Château Langoa Barton 1999 Grand Cru Classé, a Château d’Esclans 2006 Rosé and a ClineCellars 2005 Los Carneros Syrah in First.
While the UAE’s Qatar is a predominantly Muslim country and generally not the first place you’d think of finding truly satisfying wine selections, their national airline, Qatar Airways, recognizes that its passengers want diversity and they get it with offerings from Italy, France, Germany, New Zealand, Australia and Portugal. Business Class passengers can look forward to choosing from a Laurent-Perrier 1999 Brut Millésimé, a Beaune du Château 2005 Cru, a Saint Clair 2008 Pioneer Block 18, a 2006 Riesling Kabinett, a Château Monbousquet Saint-Emilion 2002 Grand Cru, a Poggio Antico 2003 Brunello di Montalcino, a Hollick 2004 Shiraz or, to finish, a Taylor’s 20-Year Tawny Port.
Virgin Atlantic let London’s venerable Berry Bros. & Rudd choose a fairly concise selection referred to as the “Tipple List” that begins with a Pannier Brut Champagne and moves quickly into a Domaine de Pannautier 2007 Viognier, an organic Saladini Pilastri 2008 Fa lerio and a Viña Delia 2008Chardonnay before moving into the heartier reds, such as an Artadi Artazuri 2007 Garnacha, a Domaine de Ricardelle 2007 Alençades and an Inspired Company 2008 Shiraz/Cabernet blend.