British Airways takes the 500,000 cases of wine it serves on board in a year very seriously.
The in-house team work with Master of Wine, TV host and international author, Jancis Robinson in selecting the best wines for the sky.
Wines from vineyards and wineries around the world are shortlisted and sent to British Airways’ headquarters in London. Tastings are carried out every couple of months with the panel. The wines are always tasted ‘blind’ to ensure the decision is made purely on the flavour of the wine.
When choosing a wine to go on-board a flight a number of things are taken into account – the quality of the wine, the quantity that can be produced, and whether it complements the food on board.
Of course, how it tastes is also a key factor, however, at 35,000ft tastebuds lose about 40 per cent of their ability to differentiate between flavours, so Peter and the team have to ensure that they buy wines that can still be enjoyed at altitude. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to be very high in alcohol content. It is worth remembering that flying at high altitude in a pressurised cabin makes one glass in the air equal two on the ground.
Overly acidic wines or those with high levels of tannin are avoided because these characteristics become more pronounced in the air.
The team select different wines for each cabin. There are some consistent favourites – in First class there will be an exclusive champagne, and usually a chardonnay and a cabernet sauvignon in the selection. In addition there will be a further two whites and two reds plus dessert wines. In Club World, champagne, sauvignon and merlot are popular choices. One more red and one white are also on the menu. First class and Club World passengers have a choice of wines from one of the classic European wine regions as well as from the continent they are travelling to.
In World Traveller Plus and World Traveller, wines are served in quarter bottles, which have proven very popular with customers. These will also often be a sauvignon or merlot.
On an average flight to New York, A BA plane carries 35 bottles of wine in
FIRST, 84 bottles in Club World and 390 quarter bottles in World Traveller plus and World Traveller plus.