Wines on the Wing
A panel of 30 judges swirl, sip, taste and ponder wines served by airlines around the world to declare the winners of Global Traveler’s annual Wines on the Wing International Business-class Airline Wine Competition.
Wines on the Wing 2010 is Global Traveler’s annual international business-class airline wine competition in which professional judges evaluate samples from the wine lists of international airlines.
Over 30 judges nosed, swirled, sipped, tasted and pondered 118 wines submitted by 26 airlines to decide which were the best. The wines tasted were the same ones each carrier currently serves to its business-class passengers. With the results tallied, Austrian Airlines’ wines earned the highest score. Coming in a close second, Qatar Airways, last year’s winner, was only .28 of a point behind Austrian. Third place went to TAM Brazilian Airlines.
The winning airline’s strong showing was not dependent on one or two high-scoring blockbusters pulling the rest of its wines into the winner’s corner. Instead, all of its offerings, a Champagne and four Austrian wines, received comfortably high marks — high enough to earn its Champagne, both of its white wines and one red wine places on the Top 10 lists.
Austrian Airlines chooses its wines once a year. After a wine expert culls through hundreds of wines to present the best, a jury of 55 certified Austrian Board sommeliers holds a tasting. From the results, the airline selects its wines, giving passengers a choice of three whites and three reds.
On long-haul business-class flights, the wine selection is changed every two months. To assure its wines are served in a professional manner, Austrian Airlines employs certified Board sommeliers who train the flight attendants in wine service.
It is the care it takes with its wine selection and service that prompted Peter Baumgartner, Austrian Airlines vice president of customer services and product management, to say, “Our levels of quality and service are among the highest in the world. Our wide range of top wines makes us unmistakable in international competition.” As for placing first in this year’s Wines on the Wing, he added, “We are very pleased to be able to enjoy this top placing.”
Among the Top 10 wines in each of the three categories, the highest-scoring sparkling wine was Jet Airways’ Lanson Noble Cuvée Brut Millésime 1999, a Champagne that judge Karen King noted for its “citric notes that meld with its minerality” and for its creamy texture. John Sheldon praised its balance. John Fanning liked its nuance.
The second-best Champagne was a close relative of the first-place winner: Lanson Brut Vintage 1998 Gold Label, entered by Qatar Airways. Judges complimented its crispness and long finish.
Qatar Airways’ Selbach-Oster Riesling Kabinett 2007 from Mosel, Germany, was the top-scoring white. It was also the highest-scoring wine of all 118 entries this year. The judges found it displayed “green apple and lemon” (John McClement), “a bright palate” (Melissa Sutherland Amado), and “exotic fruits” (David Frieser).
Emirates submitted the second-place white wine, Domaine Vincent Latour Meursault 2008, Les Meix Chavaux,Veilles Vignes. It is a complex Burgundy, Eric White wrote, with a bit of spice and good balance.
The winning red wine, Iberia Airlines’ Condado de Haza Crianza 2006 from Ribera del Duero, Spain, received the second-highest score of the 118 wines in the competition, garnering praise as elegant and well structured.
South African Airways came in second in the red wine category with South Africa’s own Zondernaam Shiraz 2007. Rich, smoky and meaty were adjectives the judges used to describe it.
The North America First Class/Business Class category covers airlines that offer service within the continent, and among this year’s contestants American Airlines shone the brightest. It was the Top Airline of the category; its sparkling wine, Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut, was the top-scoring sparkling wine; and its Murphy-Goode Cabernet Sauvignon won as the Top Red Wine. Virgin America’s Mirassou Sauvignon Blanc was deemed the Top White Wine. All three winning wines are from California wineries.
This year, Global Traveler introduced a new category: Top Airline Alliance. Of the three alliances whose members were among the competing airlines, oneworld members’ wines totaled the highest number of points. The alliance was represented in the judging by American Airlines, British Airlines, Iberia Airlines, LAN Airlines and Mexicana Airlines.
Since Wines on the Wing is an annual event, it offers a look at trends in the wines that airlines choose to serve. With a world of choices at their call, airlines submitted wines from 11 countries. As always, the overwhelming majority of sparkling wine was Champagne. Among red wines, for the first time, California entries outnumbered those from France. But it was in the white wine category that we could discern a strong trend. There was a clear move toward lighter, less oak-aged wines. The proof was that we received our largest number of Riesling submissions this year. We also had far more entries of Albariño, Grüner Veltliner and Pinot Grigio. And we received a record selection of Sauvignon Blanc, produced in five countries.
As Manos Angelakis, a highly experienced wine judge, said at the end of the competition, “Wine tastings are like a fairy tale. You must kiss many frogs before you find a prince.” Perusing the results of Wines on the Wing 2010, our judges seem to have found a good number of princes this year.
The Judging Process
To participate in the Global Traveler competition, airlines throughout the world that have long-haul international business-class service were invited to submit two white wines, two red wines and one Champagne or other sparkling wine currently on their international business-class wine lists, as well as the wine lists themselves. The same rules apply to the North American category for airlines that have first-class or, if not, business-class service.
The wines were coded by number and divided into flights, or categories, according to their type — for example, all German Riesling were served together, as were all California Cabernet Sauvignon — and poured in coded glasses. Judges knew only the type of wine, its place of origin and, when appropriate, the vintage. If judges felt a wine was flawed, a reserve bottle was served. The tasting was monitored by GT’s staff and professional assistants.
Each wine was judged on a modified Davis 20-point scale. judges’ individual scores for each wine were added and averaged, and the averaged scores of an airline’s submissions were totaled. airlines with the highest total score won the Wines on the Wing awards.
• Air Canada
• American Airlines
• American Airlines-North America
• Austrian Airlines
• British Airways
• Delta Air Lines
• Delta Air Lines-North America
• Iberia Airlines
• Jet Airways
• LAN Airlines
• LOT Polish Airlines
• Mexicana Airlines
• Mexicana Airlines-North America
• Oman Air
• Qatar Airways
• South African Airways
• TAM Brazilian Airlines
• United Airlines
• United Airlines-North America
• US Airways
• US Airways-North America
• Virgin America-North America
Top 10 Overall
1. Austrian Airlines
2. Qatar Airways
3. TAM Brazilian Airlines
4. South African Airways
6. Mexicana Airlines
7. LAN Airlines
8. Jet Airways
10. American Airlines
Top North America First Class/Business Class
Top North America Airline
Top North America Airline Sparkling Wine
Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut NV, California (American Airlines)
Top North America Airline White Wine
Mirassou Sauvignon Blanc 2008, (Virgin America)
Top North America Airline Red Wine
Murphy-Goode Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Alexander Valley, California (American Airlines)
Top Airline Alliance
Oneworld (Participating members: American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia Airlines, LAN Airlines, Mexicana Airlines)
Top 10 Champagnes And Other Sparkling Wines
Lanson Noble Cuvée Brut Millésime 1999 – Jet Airways
Lanson Brut Vintage 1998, Gold Label – Qatar Airways
Bortolomiol Prosecco di Valdobbiadene NV, Italy – Alitalia
Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve NV – British Airways
Billecart-Salmon Brut Réserve NV – Oman Air
Nicolas Feuillatte Réserve Particulière Brut NV – American Airlines
Piper-Heidsieck Brut NV – Lufthansa
Duval-Leroy Fleur de Champagne Brut NV – Austrian Airlines
Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut NV – Mexicana Airlines
Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV – LAN Airlines
Top 10 White Wines
Selbach-Oster Riesling Kabinett 2007, Zeltlinger
Schlossberg, Mosel, Germany – Qatar Airways
Domaine Vincent Latour Meursault 2008, Les Meix Chavaux,
Veilles Vignes, Burgundy, France – Emirates
Joseph Drouhin Rully 2007, Burgundy, France – American Airlines
Salentein Chardonnay Reserva 2009, Mendoza, Argentina – LAN Airlines
Selbach Riesling Kabinett 2007, “Feinherb,” Mosel, Germany – United Airlines
Weingut Prieler Chardonnay 2008, Burgenland, Austria – Austrian Airlines
Weingut Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner 2008,
Kamptal Reserve, Austria – Austrian Airlines
Torricella Chardonnay 2007, Barone Ricasoli, Tuscany, Italy – Alitalia
Weingut Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner 2007, Kamptal, Austria – TAM Brazilian Airlines
Le Meridiane Pinot Grigio 2008, Valdadige, Italy – British Airways
Top 10 Red Wines
Condado de Haza Crianza 2006, Ribera del Duero, Spain – Iberia Airlines
Zondernaam Shiraz 2007, South Africa – South African Airways
TIE: Weingut Gesellmann Blaufränkisch 2007, Austria. Pujanza Rioja 2005, Spain
– Austrian Airlines, Spain Iberia Airlines
Hartenberg The Mackenzie Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Malbec 2005, South Africa
– South African Airways
Montes Alpha M 2006, Chile, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot – LAN Airlines
Hall Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Napa Valley, California – American Airlines
Quinta do Gradil 2006, Estremadura, Portugal – Lufthansa
Tikal Amorio Malbec 2008, Argentina – Mexicana Airlines
Casalferro-Barone Ricasoli 2005, Sangiovese and Merlot, Italy – Alitalia
Château Monbousquet 2002, St.-Emilion, France – Qatar Airways
Melissa Sutherland Amado is a wine consultant to private collectors. She is also creative director at Wine Merchants, a wine shop in New York.
Manos Angelakis is the senior wine and food writer for Luxury Web Magazine and the author of the semi-monthly Oenophile Blog. As a writer, critic and experienced judge, he travels extensively through the wine regions of the world.
Cesar Baeza is wine master and co-owner of Brotherhood Winery, New York State. A native of Chile, he studied winemaking there and in France, Spain and California and worked at wineries before moving to New York.
Lacey Burke is the sommelier at Gotham Bar & Grill in Manhattan. Earlier, she opened Gray Kunz’s second restaurant, Grayz, also in Manhattan.
Cesare Casella is chef/owner of Salumeria Rosi in Manhattan. He is the author of three cookbooks and the dean of The Italian Culinary Academy at the International Center and frequently appears on TV.
Molly Choi is senior vice president of Cape Classics, the South African wine import company, where she is responsible for the marketing of over 20 wine estates. She has been with Cape Classics for 13 years.
Jim Clarke is wine director of MEGU, a Japanese restaurant in Manhattan with an international list. He also writes about wine for Forbes.com and StarChefs.com and for Santé and other print magazines and newspapers.
Lisa Donneson is proprietor of Bouké and Bouquet wines, produced on the North Fork of Long Island, New York. She is a graduate of the Wine and Spirits Education Trust and associate member of the Institute of Wines & Spirits and Long Island Wine Council.
John Fanning is general manager of Accademia di Vino in New York. He has been general manager and/or wine director at I Trulli, Beppe, Felidia, Coco Pazzo, Le Madri and Palio in New York; Bramante and San Michele in Rome.
Fred Ferretti is a wine and food writer whose articles appear in many national publications. Formerly a New York Times reporter, he was also a columnist for Gourmet magazine and a writer and correspondent for NBC TV.
Michael Feurstein is owner of Selections Pas Mal, a wine importing and distributing company whose portfolio includes fine and rare wines from Burgundy, the Loire Valley, the Rhône Valley and Languedoc.
Xavier Flouret is the founder and CEO of Cognac-One, a wine importing company based in New York that imports Ayala Champagne, Caves de Tain wines and a worldwide selection of wines under the Xavier Flouret label.
David Frieser is president of Beekman Liquors, Inc., a 51-year-old wine shop in Manhattan, and a frequent wine lecturer for clients. He has been professionally involved in wine for 28 years.
Curtis Green is president and founder of TenFolks Enterprises, a wine education and marketing company created to broaden interest in wine among African-Americans through tastings, seminars and other events.
David Gross is a restaurant wine specialist for Southern Wine & Spirits in the Hudson Valley of New York State. Earlier, he worked as a caterer. In all, he has been in the wine trade for more than 20 years.
Karen King is sales manager at Winebow, a wine importing firm. In the previous 20 years, she was wine director at Union Square Café and beverage director at Gramercy Tavern and The Modern. She has taught wine classes at French Culinary Institute.
Mariko Kobayashi is the former wine director of Esca restaurant. She has served as sommelier for the Japanese ambassador to the United Nations and has worked in retail at Italian Merchants, Sherry-Lehmann and winesby.com.
Peter Martin is with the on-premise wine division of Southern Wine & Spirits of New York. He is also a wine consultant and lecturer at the Culinary Institute of America, Epcot Wine Festival and at private tastings.
John McClement is wine and spirits director of All Weather Management, a restaurant group that includes Keens Chop House, NoHo Star, Temple Bar and Elephant & Castle in New York; Eccolo in California; and Elephant & in Ireland.
Katherine Moore is general manager of Union Square Wines & Spirits, a large retail shop in Manhattan.
Peter Morales is president and founder of 57 Main Street Imports, an international wine business. Among his philanthropic projects, he supports “Vision 57,” a program which aids disadvantaged grammar schools in South African wine regions by donating a percentage of every bottle of African wine he sells.
Arno Schmidt has been the executive chef at New York’s Waldorf Astoria, The Plaza and other famous hotels and has organized numerous wine and food events. A native of Austria, he has worked in hospitality since 1946 and written 10 food service books.
Charles Scicolone is the wine and food editor of www.i-italy.org, an Italian/American web magazine. He is also a wine educator and wine consultant; he has, among his clients, tour groups to Italy.
Robert Shack is owner of HB Wine Merchants/R. Shack Selections and of Clos Robert Winery in Sonoma, Calif. Previously, he was vice president and manager of the Premiere Wine Merchants Division of Rémy Martin Amerique for 20 years.
John Sheldon is wine representative for Artisan and Pas Mal, two fine-wine importers and distributors; founder and director of the 37-year-old New York Wine Tasting School; and wine consultant to restaurants and private clubs.
Felicia Sherbert is author of The Unofficial Guide to Selecting Wine and president of What’s My Wine? LLC, a consulting and communications firm specializing in wine, spirits and hospitality. She is on the editorial advisory board of École Hôtelière de Lausanne, Switzerland.
Darrin Siegfried is president and director of education of the Sommelier Society of America, where he has trained more than 1,500 people in wine service. has managed several top New York restaurants and created Red, White and Bubbly, a wine shop in Brooklyn.
Eric White is store manager of The Winery, a Manhattan wine shop. He has worked in the wine industry for more than 20 years, specializing for the last eight years in wine consulting and tasting.
Michael Yurch is president and chief executive officer of Sherry-Lehmann in Manhattan. Before joining the retail wine firm in 1985, he was manager of The Wine Cart and also worked for the Wine Imports of America Corporation. Eva Wassemiller Zorad is wine buyer and manager for September Wines & Spirits, an artisan wine boutique in lower Manhattan