27
Mar
18

WINE AT 35,000 FEET ©

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. A number of airlines are investing time and money to hire knowledgeable sommeliers to select wines with special labels 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 more palatable on planes. As service expanded to include wine, they were faced with the same issues of retaining aromas and taste.

Wine is usually described in terms of taste, but in reality, about 80% of taste is based on aromas and the sense of smell is the general introduction to a glass of wine, But 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. The constant loud drone in the cabin also intensifies or negatively affects various flavor components. So what to look for when in the wild blue yonder? Start with low acid wines free of heavy tannins, particularly red wines. Instead look for ones, like Pinot Noir that have fruity flavors and more accessible pleasant aromas.  That’s problematic when choices are limited on board a plane.

Airlines face multiple problems once they find a wine that satisfies all customers 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 wines attract affluent travelers who want maximum comfort while onboard heading to and from their destinations. So don’t be surprised if the wine style or favorite label isn’t traveling with you.

P. S. It’s best to skip alcohol altogether when flying.

 

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