Wine is becoming a major priority for a select group of fussy first and business class passengers jokingly referred to as “oeno-flyers” (as in oenophile, or wine lover.) These travelers show their preference for quality products even when soaring through the sky from one destination to another. A number of airlines are investing time and money to hire knowledgeable sommeliers to select wines with special labels that appeal to wine buffs that retain their qualities at high altitude and lower atmospheric pressure. The combination of these issues can change the tastes of both wine and food on a plane. Early on in the travel industry, airline executives spent time and money to find ways of making food that was palatable at sea level more tasteful on planes. As service expanded to include wine, they  were faced with the same issues of retaining aromas and taste earn choosing wines.

We usually describe wine in terms of taste, but in fact about 80% of taste is based on aroma. Since the sense of smell is the general introduction to a glass of wine, all the rules that apply on terra firma change when pressurized cabins and dry air on planes make it difficult for passengers to capture wine’s complex aromas and flavors. The constant loud drone in the cabin also negatively affects various flavor components. So what to look for when choosing wine in the wild blue yonder? Start with low acid wines free of heavy tannins, particularly reds. Instead look for lighter varietals, like Pinot Noir with fruity flavors and more accessible pleasant aromas.

Airlines face multiple problems once they find a wine that satisfies at high altitudes. No single producer can supply an airline that serves millions of bottles a year to its passengers. Cathay Pacific, for example, is said to have poured 1.5 million bottles year while United reports a staggering 7 million bottles. Qatar and Singapore Airlines claim their superior wines attract affluent travelers who want maximum comfort and pleasure onboard heading to and from their destinations.




  1. 1 jill cohen
    July 21, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    very interesting topic. i never even thought about airline wines

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