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Snooth User: John Andrews

Thanksgiving, Airlines & Wine

Posted by John Andrews, Dec 1, 2008.

By the time you read this those of us in the United States will be through half way through our Thanksgiving weekend.  We’ll be stuffed with food and some of us will be crazy enough to battle through the Black Friday sales.  I’ll be happily working through Black Friday at Loxton Cellars for Sonoma Valley’s Annual Holiday Open House.  While this would make a great topic to write about one thing that Thanksgiving reminds me of is travel.  For many people in the US that means air travel.  Today travel by air is usually met with thoughts and experiences of long lines, invasive security checks, delays and high costs.

It is not often that you think wine and airlines in at the same time.  It seems like decades ago when we were able take bottles of wine as carry-on luggage.  Now we’re restricted to 3.5 fluid ounces in our carry-on luggage.   The thoughts of most weary airline passengers vary from “Are we there yet?”, “Why are these seats so small?” and “I hope my return flight is better”.  However, if you manage to get yourself into business class or first you might be amazed at what you find!

Many airlines are stocked with some impressive wines.  These are wines that you would be very happy to have in your collection.  Take Qantas for example, their first class wine offerings would rival that of a five star restaurant in Sydney City Central.  To get an idea of the breadth and quality of their offerings click here .  Some of the highlights for me are:

•    2007 Brokenwood Semillion - Hunter Valley, NSW
•    2006 Giant Steps Trafford Vineyard Chardonnay - Yarra Valley, Vic
•    2007 Mesh Riesling - Eden Valley, SA
•    2006 Tyrrell’s Wines Vat 47 Hunter Chardonnay - Hunter Valley, NWS


•    2006 Brokenwood Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz - Huner Valley, NSW
•    2006 Giant Steps Sexton Vineyard Pinot Noir - Yarra Valley, Vic
•    2004 Heathcote Estate Heathcote Shiraz - Heathcote, Vic
•    2003 Henschke Cyril Henschke Cabernet Sauvignon - Eden Valley, SA

And there was one that really shocked me:

•    2001 Penfolds Grange - Barossa Valley, SA

Having recently flown Qantas I must say that there first class wine selection is impressive.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to fly first class.  I was stuck in economy and my selection (3 choices: sparkling, red or white) was very limited.  However, they were better than I expected:

•    2007 Yering Station Chardonnay
•    2007 Taylors ‘Promised Land’ Cab-Merlot
•    NV Jacob’s Creek Sparkling Chardonnay

Despite the small size (187 ml) and plastic bottling I have to say I was quite impressed by these wines.  They all seemed very young but did the job.  The packaging was obviously done for Qantas specifically and had a peel-away fact sheet to help consumers remember the wine.

This experience on Qantas inspired me to look to other airlines and see what their offerings are.  To my surprise many airlines are doing their best to please the wine drinker.
•    American Airlines takes a different approach to wines than Qantas.  Qantas focuses on national wines and American focuses on wines of the destination.  For a sampling of their wine offerings click here .
•    As you might expect Air France has an extensive wine selection including premier cru Champagne and first growth Bordeaux.
•    Singapore Airlines retains 3 of the planets most influencial wine personalities to help them select wines for their flights: Karen McNeil (USA), Michael Hill Smith (Australia) and Steve Spurrier (UK).

It is clear that fine wine and flying is something that has stuck with the airlines.  The disappointing fact is that the difference in wine served in First Class to Economy is huge.  I guess you can say that this would be a reason to fly first class but it seems for me I’ll be stuck with the thoughts of, “Are we there yet?”

John Andrews is a software product manager during the week and is a professional Tasting Room staffer at Loxton Cellars in Glen Ellen, CA on the weekends.


Reply by Philip James, Dec 1, 2008.

John - I've actually seen that peel away tab in the US. I think that Rosenblum actually used it for a while - let me go google it

Reply by Philip James, Dec 1, 2008.

Lol - ok, turns out I actually wrote about it: and interviewed someone from Rosenblum

I KNEW that it was familiar. I'm schmart - just have a bad memory...

Reply by oceank8, Dec 2, 2008.

Very interesting, I had no idea those first class passengers got that kind of royal treatment! When I had my insane delay at JFK airport last year, I was impressed with the wine I could get there. Spent a lot of time in a really nice wine bar. I don't fly much, so probably old news to everyone else, but some airports really have a lot to offer.

Blog comment by Dan, Dec 3, 2008.

Oceank8, if you get to Rome, the Frescobaldi wine bar cannot be beat. Good post, John, makes me sad thinking that I will not have nearly a good experience on JetBlue when I am heading to NYC in two weeks time.

Reply by John Andrews, Dec 3, 2008.

@Philip ... yeah, I do remember you blogging about the peel away wine labels. I felt like I was plaguerizing as I was writing it. :-)

@Dan ... when are you going to be in NYC? It sounds like it will be around the same time I am there.

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