Choosing Wine For An Airline

Tom Burke is a Sales Manager at the Jeroboams Group and has been at the forefront of the wine industry for over five years. While he’s a purist who loves the classics, he’s always on the lookout for new and exciting wines he wants his clients to try – one of whom being Singapore Airlines. Here, he tells us how to choose the best wines to drink eleven kilometres up in the air…

High Life Wine

Amongst other duties and responsibilities, my job entails selecting and offering wine to a wide variety of clients, from investors who buy wine for appreciation to corporate clients who buy wine to actually drink, and I am very proud to say that one of my clients is Singapore Airlines.

Here at the Jeroboams Group we supply the Business and First Class lounges with a broad and ever-changing choice of interesting bottles, so passengers who fly on a regular basis can always discover something new to pique their interest. However selecting wine for consumption at sea-level is very different to selecting wines for consumption at 35,000 feet up.

Why Drinking Wine at Altitude is Different

When you’re that high up, your senses of smell and taste are dulled due to cabin pressurisation and the resultant air-conditioning.  According to a 2010 study by the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics in Germany, even the background engine noise can have an effect.

The feeling is like having a cold; your nose and throat are drier than they usually are on the ground and this can have a huge impact on the manipulation of the perception of what we are eating and drinking. Indeed, humidity at 35,000 ft is less than 12% – which is drier than most deserts.

On board, your taste buds reduce their sensitivity to salty and sweet foods by around 30%, although strangely your sensitivity to spicy, sour and bitter flavours remains largely unaffected. This means that at altitude we are much more perceptive to tannins and acidity but less receptive to subtler fruity or sweet notes.

In addition, liquids expand and contract according to atmospheric pressure and wines become thinner so the mid-palate will, as the flight progresses, taste less fruit.

With this in mind, when you’re in your seat ready for wheels-up and the holiday of a lifetime, the wines you’ll be offered have been carefully considered and of course rigorously tasted before being selected for your flight.

Top Tips for Enjoying Wine in the Air

The longer you’re up in the air, the more dehydrated you’ll get and, as a consequence, the more your senses are affected. If you like to enjoy a chilled glass of Champagne, my advice would be to have it relatively soon after you’ve stowed your bags in the overhead locker because the longer you leave it, the acidity will become more noticeable.

If you’re a way into the flight and you’re looking for a drink to compliment your lunch or dinner, I’d suggest moving onto red wine. Choose something with some bottle age which allows the tannins to soften and the intense fruit character to subside. The ability of your senses to register the secondary characteristics remain, as I said, largely unaffected so if, for example, you chose a Rioja Reserve, you’ll still be able to pick out the unmistakable notes of leather, tobacco and chocolate. If your options on aged wine are limited, look for something like a Pinot Noir or a wine with low tannin content.

The effects of altitude on airline passengers differ from person to person and it depends on a number of environmental and physiological factors but generally speaking, our bodies cope pretty well. However, one piece of advice covers everyone – keep hydrated by drinking water. Not only is it good for your system, it will prolong the time that you will be able to taste the wine, providing a truer representation of what it will taste like as you get to the beach bar when you arrive!

For Q1 2015, the wines in Singapore Airlines’ Business and First-Class lounges are:


  • 2013 Klippenkop Chenin Blanc, Robertson, South Africa
  • 2014 Claude Val ‘Cepage6’, Paul Mas, IGP Pays d’Oc, France
  • 2014 Parcel by Parcel Fairtrade Sauvignon Blanc, Central Valley, Chile
  • 2014 Picpoul de Pinet, La Viste, Côteaux du Languedoc, France


  • 2012 Ventisquero ‘Clasico’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Valley, Chile
  • 2013 Duc de Belmonde, Cabernet-Syrah, IGP Pays d’Oc, France
  • 2014 Claude Val ‘Cepage4 Rouge’, Paul Mas, IGP Pays d’Oc, France
  • 2014 Valdevina Malbec, Famatina Valley, Argentina


About Jeroboams

Founded in 1985 by Peter Rich, Jeroboams beginnings were in retail, offering an extensive and exciting selection of fine wines and champagnes complemented by a unique selection of specialist cheeses and charcuterie. Our aim is to continually exceed our customer’s high expectations of us. This achievement has enabled Jeroboams to boast that it now operates five specialist wine shops plus its flagship food and wine outlet, all based in some of London’s most exclusive areas including Belgravia, Knightsbridge and Notting Hill.

Jeroboams have a highly successful history of procuring and selling an extensive range of the most famous wines in the world such as Latour, Lafite, Petrus, DRC, Guigal, Masseto, Leflaive, Gaja, Ridge and Krug.  We pride ourselves on our ability to find the best wine, covering an extensive range, sourced at the most competitive price in order to meet the ever changing tastes and demands of our customers.

Incidentally, Jeroboams also provide all the wines for the Singapore Airlines lounges in the UK. For more great ideas from Tom and the team at Jeroboams, visit them here

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