Change Your Altitude

It’s Wine O’clock! Here’s a Top Sommelier’s Pick of the 5 Best Airline Wine Offerings

Glass of bubbly per-departure? Yes please!

Glass of bubbly pre-departure? Yes please!

Who doesn’t enjoy a good glass of wine at 34.000 feet? Or maybe a champagne to start off a long haul flight? The answer is easy: everyone enjoys it.

So when it comes to top airlines, wine lists can become a distinguishable feature to be able to set themselves apart from others in the industry.

Recently Business Insider asked respected sommelier Jessica Brown to rate the best airlines in the world regarding their wine and champagne offerings. Brown is the chief wine expert at the renowned Breslin Bar and John Dory Oyster Bar, both located at New York’s trendy ACE Hotel. She also has a long pedigree in the field so if she says it and it deals with wine, it’s probably legitimate.

So here goes, here are the best airlines in the world if one would want to sample their wines up in the air:

Fifth: Singapore Airlines (Star Alliance)

What we might have assumed would come in first or second, Brown rates the airline 5th best saying:

“This was one of the few lists that really kind of had a focus on Burgundy, which is I think is most popular right now for red wine. It is the most popular, and most heralded and expensive region currently on the market.”

Keep in mind though, the Star Alliance carrier is the only airline in the world to serve both Dom Perignon and Krug champagne in their much fabled First Class cabin, with a respectable Moet selection in Business Class.

Fourth: Korean Air (SkyTeam)

“Korean, over wines on Virgin or Air New Zealand, focused on old world regions, classic regions and classic styles of wine, as opposed to new world styles and more mass produced brands. There are some mass produced brands on this list, but it has classic regions like Chablis, and Belle Epoque champagne.”

SkyTeam’s prestige carrier features on this list because apparently they value their traditional vineyards which is a plus for wine lovers. And hey, don’t forget to imbibe on some of their home country’s treasures such as premium Soju to pair up with their famous Bibimbap – undoubtedly the best in the sky! And a winning combo to boot.

Third: Thai Airways (Star Alliance)

“Again this list is focused on classic and well-known regions. I picked it for the breadth of their selection, as well as the quality and how respected the brands are.”

Brown highlighted the fact that the airline serves up the Pascal Jolivet Pouilly Fume 2013 as one of the highlights of TG’s offerings. To me the highlight is that Thai serves up Vueve Cliquot Brut as their per-departure champagne which is impressive, especially on regional flights of less than 2 hours. Take that United and your Mumm Napa ‘champagne’ on long haul!

Second: Qatar Airways (oneworld)

“It has some wines that are less well regarded and more mainstream, but still old world in style, and from classic wine regions that are well respected. Neither of these had a lot of new world wine on them, meaning wine coming from Australia, South America, Latin America, South Africa, even California.”

I suppose its interesting that Brown says that Qatar Airways has chosen less of the ‘brand’ name or ‘flashy’ brands – its what Doha and indeed QR is built on. But hey, credit where credit is due – they seem to have a sophisticated and well curated wine list that they take pride in. It also seems as though the airline has invested heavily in their research of finding more boutique labels which is always a massive plus. Brown highlights their offering of the 2000 Krug and Lanson Brut 1999 Champagne as excellent, especially as each of those bottles retail for about $200 a pop.

Qatar Airways offers an impressive array of different options

Qatar Airways offers an impressive array of different options

*Drum roll*

First: Emirates (no alliance – their own empire)

“I have no idea how much a first class ticket on Emirates costs, but you could probably make that flight worth it by drinking a bunch of stuff off that list, and it would be less expensive than going into a restaurant and buying those bottles,” Brown says.

“This was the wine list with the most wines that you would see on lists that are really respected, those I would see on wine programs in New York City, or that I would have on my list. I would have thought that airline wine lists would really have to defer to brands that are much more mass produced; I would imagine just for the quantity that they have to deal with that would be an issue, and that’s what I most commonly see on airline wine lists — just pretty commercial mass produced and mass marketed brands. So this has the most wines on it that were smaller production, or more unique and classic.”

Its not really a surprise that Emirates comes in first in this regard. They are the airline that has an entire Dom Perignon vintage dedicated to them – they have exclusive rights to the 2005 label – so if you wanted to try that bottle, you’d literally have to fly on an Emirates flight to drink it. They don’t skimp on other liquor either – they are the only airline in the world to serve Hennessy Paradis cognac, an option only reserved for First Class passengers. Given that the bottle retails for well over $400 per bottle, it’s pretty amazing that they manage to offer it. In First of course you have the Dom and a 2000 Moet and in Biz it’s the more ‘modest’ Vueve Rose 2004. The airline even serves real champagne in Economy – well technically its a Prosecco but hey, it’s better than nothing. Much better!

The exclusive Dom Perignon 2005 that only Emirates carries - anywhere in the world.

The exclusive Dom Perignon 2005 that only Emirates carries – anywhere in the world.

So there you have it – for you ‘wino’s’ out there, try these airlines out the next time you’re up in the air and you probably won’t be disappointed. To us the best news is that in the top five, as rated by a non-airline but rather wine expert, included airlines from all three of the ‘big’ alliances. A little bit of something for everyone!

What are your favorite airlines this regard? 

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