If you’ve travelled lately, especially on a foreign carrier, you may have noticed that in-flight wines have gotten better. Each year, Global Traveler Magazine holds the Wines on the Wing contest where “a panel of 30 judges swirl, sip, taste and ponder wines served by airlines around the world” to choose the winners of their International Business-class Airline Wine Competition. According to Wines of the Sky:
[Airline wines] are selected differently to conventional wine lists. In days gone by, airlines used to select wines on price and supply, followed by quality. But given the increased appreciation, airlines are now looking to master sommeliers and international winemakers to increase their catering reputation.
And what do these sky-high somms think about sustainable wines? One airline has come out loud and clear with its commitments. In April LAN Airlines engaged Hector Vergara, the only Master Sommelier in Latin America, to add organic and biodynamic wines to their in-flight list. Vergara enhanced LAN Airlines’ fairly expansive list of in-flight cocktails, which includes “the tastiest Pisco Sour you can have at 35,000 feet”, with new organic and biodynamic wines. To select the wines that made it on to the airline’s wine list for 2011, Hector personally tasted and assessed over 300 varieties of wine from Chile and Argentina. Says LAN: “Not only is the process through which the wine’s grapes cultivated good for the environment, it also yields some of the most beautiful and complex wines on the market, and in the sky.”
Air New Zealand is another airline with an incredible wine program and a public commitment to sustainable wines. As of 2010, all wines entered from the 2010 vintage forwardwere required to be “100 per cent sustainably produced.” New Zealand Winegrowers’ global marketing director Chris Yorke says the change signals their continuing focus on the environmental integrity of New Zealand wines and their commitment to quality: ”Sustainability has been a focus of the Air New Zealand Wine Awards for several years with the introduction of pure medals in 2007, and this is the next step in our sustainability policy.” And wineries rose to the challenge. 1,586 wines were entered into this year’s Air New Zealand Wine Awards with almost 40 per cent of entries being sustainable wines.
Other airlines are coming along. The Quantas In-Flight Guide To Wine sings the praises of winemakers Stephen and Prue Henschke and Vanya Cullen, who are know for their biodynamic viticulture, sustainable farming practices and “desire to protect ancient vines”. The Quantas list boasts several wines and vintages from Henschke and Cullen.
Sadly, I did not uncover much public comittment to sustainable wine programs from domestic carriers. If all goes well, that will change. Last year, Global Traveler introduced a new category: Top Airline Alliance. Could we be so lucky as to see a new category in the future: Top Sustainable Wines?
Photo: Air New Zealand