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The Best Wine at 30,000 Feet

These airlines provide premier experiences for even the most sophisticated palates

So travelers don’t dread flying, especially during long-haul itineraries, airlines are improving experiences. One way (let’s be honest, our favorite way) is through expanded and enhanced wine programs. Below, explore the cream of the crop. 

Etihad Airways
Etihad’s uber-exclusive The Residence beverage menu is based on that of First Class but can be altered according to the specific tastes. Guests can even bring aboard their favorite wine or vintage. To handle the best wine, the Etihad Butler, who attends to those in The Residence, has been trained at the Savoy Butler Academy in London, which includes wine and beverage service. In First and Business classes, Etihad offers wines selected by a team of independently-qualified sommeliers. 

Virgin Atlantic
The breadth of Virgin’s wine Upper Class program is broad and far reaching. In addition to wine perks like pairings and guided wine tasting tutorials via the inflight entertainment system, onboard wine selections are made by a tasting panel lead by Berry Bros. and Rudd’s Wine Director Mark Pardoe, a Master of Wine. Upper Class wine selections change every quarter, with three diverse reds and three whites chosen to complement menu changes, and Virgin doesn’t shy away from lesser known styles and vintages. When Virgin launched its new Dreamliner 787 aircrafts, they began serving sparkling wine from English winery Hambledon Vineyard. Grown and produced in Hampshire, Meon Hill Grand Reserve was specifically selected to complement the cabin pressure and humidity of the 787 cabin and has been found to stay bubbly for longer. 

Under the guidance of Australian celebrity chef Neil Perry, Qantas First Class travelers enjoy a choice of 12 main courses, or an eight-course tasting menu made with sustainable and locally sourced produce paired with wine and served by Qantas’ trained cabin staff. Wine, Champagne and spirits selected for flights and lounges are made The Qantas Rockpool Sommeliers, a new team of somms and mixologists from Perry’s Rockpool Restaurant Group. The Group includes the Head of Sommeliers Australia, David Lawler, and one of only two Master Sommeliers in Australia, Sebastian Crowther.

For the First Class wine list, it takes a team of 40 certified sommeliers, wine novices and Master of Wine Ned Goodwin six months and a two-day blind tasting to choose the 300 red and white wines served. Apart from choices originating in ANA destinations such as the U.S., France and Germany, wines from other countries are selected to make the airline’s wines list unique and varied such as Tyrrell’s Wines Vat 1 Hunter Semillon 2010 from Australia.