When it comes to economy class airline wines, most flyers aren’t convinced. Here at Skyscanner we decided to take matters into our own hands and test this theory by appointing a knowledgeable, ready and very willing (it didn’t take much convincing) panel of wine experts and international travellers to help us find out how the in-flight wine stood up against a blind taste test.
The panel consisted of a total of ten judges and was led by wine writer and critic Tom Cannavan. Tom writes for British newspapers like the Sunday Times and The Independent and travel globally to take part in wine-samplings, to judge competitions and to attend wine harvests and of course, the guaranteed after-party. Tom also runs the very popular wine website, Wine-Pages.com. He was the perfect candidate to navigate the panel through a minefield of 24 wines: twelve reds and twelve whites.
Tom had the backup of budget wine lover RegularWino.com and creative wine writer Juel Mahoney, of the blog Wine, Woman & Song.
Before we started sampling, spitting, swallowing and savouring, Tom took us through the basics and essential elements of wine tasting. We were reminded to examine colour, smell, taste and finish and to keep a score of 1-10 for each wine we sampled. The reds and whites each came from a variety of international airlines, from Emirates to Aeroflot, mixing both economy-flying wines with those from luxury, first class travel.
Given Easyjet’s focus on the ‘cheap and cheerful’ it was an eye-opener to discover that they’d come in first, yes first, for their white wine; the Louis Mondeville Côtes de Gascogne. Not only did Easyjet win the white wine category but its main rival in the money-saving market, Ryanair, also came in a very respectable fifth place with its Italian Garganega Trebbiano Villa Cardini.
The winning reds however appeared to spring more from the national carries with British Airways scoring the highest with its Argento Malbec, followed closely by Emirates Weighbridge Shiraz by Peter Lehmann. In joint third place were Air France’s Couleurs Du Sud Syrah Pays Douc and KLM’s Terra Andina Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot. KLM and Virgin Atlantic were the only two airlines who had both a white and a red in the top five.
Altitude, a pressurised cabin and lack of fresh oxygen do have an effect on the taste of wine and our taste buds, as Regular Wino was keen to point out, and this may account for the very lemony whites and woody reds. Would the wine buyers at each of the airlines select the same reds and whites if they were buying for a restaurant? Do any of the wines match the menus of airline foods?
The wine tasting raised a lot of questions into the psychology of wine and flight, but more importantly it raised some very surprising results. Although I won’t be choosing who I fly with based on their wine, if I am flying with either Easyjet, BA or Ryanair, I know which wines I’ll be looking out for.