Any air traveller knows that upon boarding an airplane, many of the small comforts of life are going to be taken away. However, for those that can't afford a private jet, there is at least one small comfort –wine. Most airlines have a wine list, but those budget operators are likely to have it coming out of a box. And there are airlines out there that are going out of their way to stock some of the best quality wine lists comprised of quality vintages. Here are a few of our favourites...
Qantas, also known by their playful nickname 'the flying kangaroo', is Australia's largest airline company. Qantas flies Australians internationally in style. On board it stocks 60 different wines, many produced by Australian vineyards. While it serves wine to all its passengers, from first class all the way to the economy class, the best vintages and variety are saved for first class. First class and business class passengers are given wine guides upon boarding detailing all the fine vintages available to them, while those in economy class have to request one. First class passengers enjoy Champagne, three choices of reds, three choices of whites, dessert wine, port, Muscat, and Tokay. For those who are in the mood for a little bubbly, the airline stocks a wonderful Heidseick Brut Reserve from one of the most famous Champagne houses in the world. However, it is the 2009 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay from Margret River, Australia that is a favourite among frequent fliers.
2. Malaysia Airlines
Unlike Qantas, Malaysia Airlines isn't able to serve up any locally-produced wine, but that provides the airline with a certain freedom – the freedom to scour the globe for the best international wine treasures. Most of its wine selection comes from Spain, France, Australia and Germany, however while their 70-bottle in-flight wine menu is impressive, more so is the airline’s quality control. Each year, it conducts a blind tasting of 200 bottles of wine by a panel of wine experts. These experts have to not only contemplate the unique qualities of each vintage, but also consider how each wine would taste at 30,000 feet. Some of these great bottles include Dom Perignon 2002 Champagne, Chateau Leoville Poyferre Grand Cru red Bordeaux and Fredric Magnien Meusault white Burgundy. All of these great vintages are available to both first class and business class passengers who receive a wine list upon boarding.
3. Qatar Airways
With the tiny country of Qatar being the world's richest country per capita, it is no surprise that its national airline is dedicated to having the best wines for its luxury clientele. Its wine list includes selections from Italy, Germany, France, New Zealand, Portugal and Australia. With only 25 different vintages on its wine list, Qatar Airways is not the most varied collection, but it is among the finest in sheer quality. Twice a year the airline's two wine master meet and test 300 different wines over three days, they pick the best vintages that would not only taste the best at 30,000 feet, but would also pair well with the airline’s gourmet cuisine. Among the world's best wine includes prized vintages like the 1999 Laurent Perrier Champagne and a 1974 Kopke Colheita Port. While fist class and business class are presented with an elegant menu upon boarding, while economy class is restricted to a selection of four bottles. However, even in economy class, those bottles are of a fine quality.
4. American Airlines
American Airlines has the pleasure of working with the classically trained winemaker and viticulturist, Ken Chase, to pick out the best wines from throughout American wine country – as well as internationally. However, American Airlines does something especially interesting with its wine selection aboard each flight. It is catered for by wherever the flight is headed, so that passengers can get a taste what they can expect when they land. Of course, this is only offered in countries that produce wine, so on some flights there may be a stunning selection presented on the wine list for first class and business passengers, while on others the selection may be restricted to only a few bottles. As the company’s wine specialist, Chase wanted passengers to be able to experience the cultural, seasonal and stylistic differences of each destination in their wine. This works wonderfully for destinations like France with a large wine culture, but falters for others.
5. Cathay Pacific
With Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific being so internationally praised for its fabulous gourmet in-flight menu, it is only natural that it stocks some of the world's best vintages to pair with its luxurious menu. Cathay Pacific offers a permanent selection of three vintages to first class and business class passengers, including complex blends like a 2007 Clemente VII Toscana and a 2010 Marchesi de Frescobaldi Mormoreto. The airline now hosts half a dozen carefully-selected, top quality wines from Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux, France. Vintages like the 2004 Chateau Dassalt, Saint-Emilion and the 2009 Chateau Haut Brisson La Reserve, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru are only two of the six wines that have been chosen based on how well they taste nearly a mile in the air.