After having seen the movie BottleShock (highly recommended if you haven’t seen it before) we know what kind of effect a flight can have on wine. But how about wine served in the cabin? Is it also affected in a similar way? Or do we taste the wine different because of the high altitude and dry air while flying at high altitude?
During a flight, the barometric pressure in the cabin of a plane is lower than it is in most places on earth. You can compare it with an altitude in the mountains of between 1,800 and 2,200 metres.
That’s also why you will notice the alcohol kicks in twice as strong. In other words, because of the lower level of oxygen in your blood, you may seem more drunk in the air than you would on the ground after consuming the same amount of alcohol. A complicating factor is that the air in an aircraft is very dry and, coupled with the diuretic effect of drinking alcohol; you may become dehydrated much faster than you would on the ground.
The drier the environment, the drier your olfactory system is. When your olfactory sense is dried out, you aren’t able to sense complexity. The second problem is that cabin pressure in airplanes causes flavor molecules to fly around faster. Aromas get dissipated quickly when the vapor is moving faster, which makes it difficult for those aromas to get into your already compromised olfactory system.
Most experts agree that wines that work up in the air are crisp, light and fruity wines with very strong scents.
While it’s good to aim for a wine with good flavor, it’s important to avoid those that are too tangy and too heavy.
Think of white wines like Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc, and reds like Pinot Noir, Rioja, or Argentinian Malbec. Champagne is always a good choice regardless of the circumstances. Turns out there’s a reason besides celebration they serve champagne in first class.
You want to avoid wines with a lot of tannins—think Chianti, big Italian wines, or a hefty Cabernet. These wines take on a particularly leathery aspect in-flight. You also want to avoid wines that are light in flavor even when drunk on the ground—like an Italian Pinot Grigio or Moscato.
The flight itself has proven not to affect the wine, as long as the wine is kept pressurized.
Especially when flying Business- or First Class and you drink some of the world’s finer wines, the right temperature is of great influence. Obviously, in airplanes there is no wine climate control system on board, so whites and champagnes are served chilled from the fridge, while the reds are served “room temperature”. As a result, most whites are served too cold while the reds are served too warm. These temperatures are not really ideal for these wines, but guess we have to live with it.
If you are so fortunate to fly Business Class you may actually enjoy your wine from an actual glass, rather than from a plastic cup.
Given the limited space on board it is evident that there is only a few different types of different glasses available. Emirates serves their champagnes in flutes, but with a short stem while their still wines are served in a Bordeaux style glass.
We had the chance to fly First Class on Emirates and this was a great chance to taste some beautiful wines. Emirates is known for its excellent wine selection for Business- and First-Class passengers and it is said that in First Class they serve more Dom Perignon than mineral water….
At Emirates Business Class, they serve Moet & Chandon Brut NV Champagne, while First Class passengers are offered Dom Perignon Champagne. Also, the selection of still wines were impressive, we have had Meursault Premier Cru, Château Cos d’Estournel and Sauternes.
Emirates updates its wine list every month and it is said they store 3.8 million bottles of vintage wines.
What’s the best wine you ever had on board of a plane? Share it with us in the comments below!
John & James
The Wine Junkies