Wines On The Wing 2013
The winners of GT’s annual Wines on the Wing airline wine competition
Photo: © Christopher P. Ottaunick
Stretching across Manhattan from the Hudson River to the East River, 42nd Street changes its face and character nearly every block and, along much of it, exudes nearly 24 hours of brash, kinetic energy.
Then there is The Westin New York Grand Central, a new addition to 42nd Street, between Second and Third avenues, a 774-room hotel that offers the many benefits of a Midtown Manhattan location without the stress of Midtown madness. It is only a couple of minutes to Grand Central Station. A few minutes to the United Nations. A short trip to Times Square. An easy entry to anywhere in the city beginning from a hotel that, like the eye of a storm, is calm surrounded by clamor.
Add to that The Westin’s emphasis on food and wine. Its The LCL: Bar & Kitchen, which is open nearly around the clock, features both seasonal food and an intriguing collection of small-batch spirits, regional beers and organic wines.
All reasons The Westin was an ideal setting for Wines on the Wing, Global Traveler’s annual International First Class and Business Class Airline Wine Competition. That is where, on a day in May, 25 wine professionals tasted and tested 162 wines submitted by 34 airlines from around the world.
For the first time, the airlines whose wines added up to the highest scores in both the First Class and Business Class categories this year were the same airlines that won last year’s competition. British Airways again was the highest-scoring airline among competing First Class entries. And Brussels Airlines was again the highest-scoring airline among competing Business Class entries.
“We are thrilled,” said Lynn McClelland, head of catering for British Airways, “to have been recognized for our wine choices in first class. The award represents our very discerning customers, and we are delighted that it has been such a positive experience for them.” To create that experience, the airline changes the wine menu each month in first class, using approximately 120,000 bottles a year. And it tailors the wine list to each route to showcase wines from the destination continent. Always on the wine list is premium Champagne, a high-quality white Burgundy and a fine Claret. Among its highest-scoring First Class entries this year were Laurent-Perrier Grande Siècle Champagne and Château Larrivet-Haut-Brion 2005.
Brussels Airlines’ climb to again become the highest-scoring Business Class Wines on the Wing entry began with its Laurent- Perrier Brut as the top-scoring Champagne in its class. It was, in fact, the top-scoring Champagne of all Champagnes entered in this year’s contest. For the airline’s catering managers, Philippe Mortier and Johan Duwijn, the win “motivates us more than ever to continue our wine selection strategy.” That strategy is to select three family types of wines — French, both famous and lesser-known châteaux; international wines such as Italian, Spanish and New World; and a surprise wine of the month. The airline also features one Belgian wine. In all, Brussels Airlines pours 4,000 bottles of wine each month on its long-haul service. The carrier also considers feedback the crew receives from passengers. That feedback helps the selection process by offering a glimpse at how passengers experience the wines.
Hainan Airlines’ G.H. Mumm Brut placed first among Champagnes International First Class while its Torres Sangre de Toro, a Spanish wine judge Lisa Donneson described as delicious and well-balanced, was the highest-scoring red wine in both First Class and Business Class categories. Because Hainan, a smaller-sized airline than most in the competition, has first-class service on only one of its aircraft, it serves the same wines there that it does in its more extensive business class. Its business-class G.H. Mumm also placed among the Top Five Champagnes in that category. “We are thrilled to have won these awards. We’ve worked hard to achieve world-class service, and it’s gratifying to receive the acknowledgement from Global Traveler,” Joel Chusid, Hainan Airlines’ executive director, USA, said. “As a Chinese airline, we offer both continental and traditional Chinese cuisine, which can make wine selection a bit challenging.” Those wines are selected through blind tastings by an international group of master sommeliers and other wine professionals. Hainan opens nearly 70,000 bottles of wine each year.
The Top White Wines International First Class awards, both first and second place, went to Jet Airways. In first place, Louis Jadot Puligny-Montrachet 2010 garnered such comments from the judges as “elegant nose” (Carl Etcheverry) and “fine balance” (Fred Ferretti). Its second winning white among First Class entries was Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis 2009, Grand Cru, a wine that judge John McClement found classic and complex. Jet Airways’ Business Class Champagne, Billecart-Salmon, placed among the Top Five Champagnes in its category. And overall, it finished as one of the Top Five International First Class Wines on the Wing airlines. Jet Airways annually pours 150,000 bottles of wine and 25,000 bottles of Champagne. And the airline was justly proud. As Sudheer Raghavan, chief commercial officer, said, “We are honored. The award is a testimony to our commitment to enhance the Jet Airways experience for our guests.”
All Nippon Airlines received six awards this year. It finished as one of the overall Top Five Wines on the Wing airlines in both First Class and Business Class. Its Montaudon Réserve Première was a Top Five Champagne in International Business Class. Its August Kesseler Riesling 2008 landed in the Top Five White Wines International First Class. Its Albert Bichot Saint-Véran 2011, which garnered such comments from judges as “an excellent example of its region” (Philip di Belardino) and praised for its intensity and ripeness by Harriet Lembeck, was the highest-scoring in the White Wines International Business Class category. And its Château Malescot Saint-Exupéry 2008 was among the Top Five Red Wines International First Class. No wonder Toshitaka Watanabe, senior vice president , CS & Products Services, considered it “Our great honor. As a 5-star airline, we have a wide selection of wines produced by top-caliber wineries from around the world.” ANA, which uses more than a quarter-million full bottles and another quarter-million 187ml bottles in first and business classes, renews its wine selection every March after tastings that include sommeliers, wine novices and passengers.
China Airlines garnered four awards as one of the Top Five International First Class Wines on the Wing airlines. Its Pol Roger Extra Cuvée de Réserve 2000 was one of the Top Five Champagnes International First Class, its A. Schmitt Riesling 2009 scored among the Top Five White Wines First Class, and the airline’s Château Langoa-Barton 1997 made the Top Five Red Wines First Class list. A committee of sommeliers and other wine-educated personnel begin by choosing a grape variety, then the growing region and ultimately narrowing the choice down to a specific region and standard. In total, the airline annually uses about 20,000 bottles of Champagne, 38,000 bottles of red wine and 27,000 bottles of white wine in its first and business classes. Roger Y.C. Chang, vice president of in-flight service supply division of China Airlines, welcomed the honor. “It is really pleasant news. We are all very happy and proud and will continue offering the best quality to our guests.”
Jerome Cadier, marketing vice president of LATAM Airlines Group, was equally proud with TAM’s showing in the competition.”We are extremely pleased to see the quality of our wine list recognized by an honor as important as the Global Traveler award. We know how important the beverages we serve are in providing an excellent travel experience to our passengers.” It is those wines that helped TAM finish among the Top Five International Business Class Wines on the Wing airlines and earn a place among the Top Five Champagnes First Class with Drappier Grande Sendrée 2005 and one of the Top Five Red Wines Business Class with the Spanish Abadia Retuerta 2009. The airline pours about 26,500 bottles in first class and more than 146,000 bottles in business class.
Among White Wines International Business Class entries, the difference between the first- and second-place white wines was infinitesimal. Second-place Ridgeback Sauvignon Blanc 2012 from South African Airways, for example, finished only 0.12 points behind first place.
Fourteen of the airlines competing in this 2013 competition are members of three alliances — oneworld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance. Of them, two, Delta Air Lines and China Airlines, were members of the alliance whose wines had the highest total, SkyTeam.
The competition’s North America category includes airlines that offer first-class and/or business-class service within the continent. And the winner with the highest overall score this year was Delta Air Lines. Delta also won first place among white wines with Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc 2011. For the fourth year, the top-scoring North American Sparkling Wine was Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut, offered by American Airlines. And Virgin America came in first among red wines with Fantesca Estate & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2003. Notably, all the winning wines in this category are from California.
A wise person once said, “Life is too short to drink bad wine.” Clearly, the 25 judges of Global Traveler’s competition did not have that problem.
TOP FIVE INTERNATIONAL FIRST CLASS WINES ON THE WING
- British Airways
- All Nippon Airlines
- Jet Airways
- China Airlines
- American Airlines
TOP FIVE INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS CLASS WINES ON THE WING
- Brussels Airlines
- All Nippon Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
TOP FIVE CHAMPAGNES INTERNATIONAL FIRST CLASS
- G.H. Mumm Brut, NV — Hainan Airlines
- Pol Roger Extra Cuvée de Réserve 2000 — China Airlines
- Laurent-Perrier Grande Siècle, NV — British Airways
- Castelnau Blanc de Blancs 1999 — United
- Drappier Grande Sendrée 2005 — TAM
TOP FIVE CHAMPAGNES INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS CLASS
- Laurent-Perrier Brut, NV — Brussels Airlines
- Montaudon Réserve Première Brut, NV — All Nippon Airways
- G.H. Mumm Brut, NV — Hainan Airlines
Jacquart Brut Mosaïque, NV — Delta Air Lines
Jacquart Brut Mosaïque, NV — Etihad Airways
Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Réserve, NV — United
- Billecart-Salmon Brut, NV — Jet Airways
TOP FIVE WHITE WINES INTERNATIONAL FIRST CLASS
- Louis Jadot Puligny-Montrachet 2010, France — Jet Airways
- Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis 2009, Grand Cru, France — Jet Airways
- Henri Darnat Meursault Clos du Domaine 2010, France — American Airlines
- August Kesseler Riesling 2008, Germany — All Nippon Airways
- A. Schmitt Riesling 2009, Germany — China Airlines
TOP FIVE WHITE WINES INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS CLASS
- Albert Bichot Saint-Véran 2011, France — All Nippon Airways
- Ridgeback Sauvignon Blanc 2012, South Africa — South African Airways
- Joseph Drouhin Saint-Véran 2011, France — Delta Air Lines
- Dreissigacker Silvaner & Chardonnay 2012, Germany — airberlin
- Wente Vineyards Morning Fog Chardonnay 2011, California — United
TOP FIVE RED WINES INTERNATIONAL FIRST CLASS
- Torres Sangre de Toro 2011, Spain — Hainan Airlines
- Château Larrivet-Haut Brion 2005, France — British Airways
- Château Malescot Saint-Exupéry 2008, France — All Nippon Airways
Château Langoa-Barton 1997, France — China Airlines
Aquamarine Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Israel — EL AL Israel Airlines
- Wairau Hills Pinot Noir 2011, New Zealand — Etihad Airways
TOP FIVE RED WINES INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS CLASS
- Torres Sangre de Toro 2011, Spain — Hainan Airlines
- Abadia Retuerta 2009, Spain — TAM
- Zuccardi Zeta 2008, Argentina — LAN
- Barón Ladrón de Guevara 2010, Spain — airberlin
- Château Laroque 2003, France — Etihad Airways
TOP NORTH AMERICAN FIRST CLASS/ BUSINESS CLASS
TOP NORTH AMERICAN WINES ON THE WING
Delta Air Lines
TOP NORTH AMERICAN SPARKLING WINE
Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut, NV, California — American Airlines
TOP NORTH AMERICAN WHITE WINE
Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc 2011, California — Delta Air Lines
TOP NORTH AMERICAN RED WINE
Fantesca Estate & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2003, California — Virgin America
TOP AIRLINE ALLIANCE
Represented by China Airlines and Delta Air Lines
To participate in Global Traveler’s competition, worldwide airlines offering long-haul international first- and business-class service were invited to submit two white wines, two red wines and one Champagne or other sparkling wine currently on their first- or business-class wine lists, as well as the wine lists themselves. The same rules apply to the North America category for airlines with first- or business-class service. There is no charge to the airline.
The wines were coded by number and divided into flights, or categories, according to their type — for example, all California Cabernet Sauvignon were served together, as were all New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc — and poured into 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 poured. Professional assistants poured the wines, and GT staff monitored the tasting.
Each wine was judged on a modified Davis 20-point scale. The judges’ individual scores for each wine were added and averaged, and the averaged scores of an airline’s submissions were totaled. Individual wines with the highest scores and the airlines with the highest total scores won the Wines on the Wing awards.
Colman Andrews is the editorial director of TheDailyMeal.com. He was the co-founder of Saveur Magazine and, earlier, the wine columnist for Los Angeles Magazine. He is the winner of eight James Beard awards including one for Best Writing on Wine and Spirits.
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 throughout the world’s wine regions.
Cesar Baeza is an enologist, consultant and educator for the wine industry. A native of Chile, he studied winemaking there and in France, Spain and California and worked in many wineries. For 20 years, he was wine master and coowner of Brotherhood Winery, New York State.
Philip di Belardino is director of fine wine development at Banfi Vintners and Excelsior Wines, a frequent wine lecturer at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration and the Culinary Institute of America, and a speaker at wine dinners. He has been in the wine business since 1973.
Lisa Donneson is proprietor of Bouké and Bouquet wines, produced on Long Island, New York. She is a graduate of the Wine and Spirits Education Trust and a member of the Institute of Wines & Spirits and Long Island Wine Council.
Carl Etcheverry is the sommelier at the Union League of Philadelphia, where he also hosts private wine functions in its Cellar 62. Before 2010, he was manager of a 26,000-bottle wine cellar at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and sommelier at its 5-star Lautrec restaurant.
John Fanning is partner and general manager of SD26, an Italian restaurant in Manhattan. He has been general manager and/or wine director at Accademia di Vino, Il Trulli, Beppe, Felidia, Coco Pazzo, Le Madri and Palio in New York; and at Bramante and San Michelle in Rome.
Fred Ferretti is a wine and food writer whose articles appear in many national publications, and the Asian food authority for Food Arts magazine. Formerly a New York Times reporter, he was also a columnist for Gourmet magazine.
Xavier Flouret is the founder and CEO of Cognac One, a wine importing company based in New York. He is the creator of the Xavier Flouret label, a worldwide selection of wines, and importer of Champagne Lenoble, Château de Malengin and Cave de Tain, among other wines.
David Frieser is president of Beekman Liquors, Inc., a 56-year-old wine shop in Manhattan, and a frequent wine lecturer for clients. He has been professionally involved in wine for 30 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 works with Sherbrooke Cellars, a wholesaler of small, highquality family-owned wineries. He has been in the wine trade for more than 20 years as a restaurant wine specialist with Southern Wine & Spirits and, earlier, as a caterer.
Harriet Lembeck is president of the Wine and Spirits Program where, for 30 years, she has taught consumers and wine trade personnel. She is the author of the sixth and seventh editions of Grossman’s Guide to Wine, Beers and Spirits and writes for Beverage Dynamics magazine.
Gilles Martin is the winemaker and director of operations at Sparkling Pointe winery on New York’s Long Island. French-born, he studied winemaking at Montpelier and worked at Roederer Estate and Delas Frères.
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 & Castle in Ireland.
Katherine Moore is general manager of Union Square Wine & Spirits, a large retail shop in Manhattan.
Elizabeth Palmer is a wine writer based in Toronto, Canada. Her articles have appeared in The Huffington Post, China Wine News and other publications. She is currently writing three books about Champagne. One, The Woman’s Guide to Champagne, launches this fall.
Fred Price is New York metro sales manager for Maximum Wine Co., an importer/distributor specializing in family-owned artisanal estates. Previously, he was senior vice president at Noble House Wines. He has also been a sommelier and wine director in several restaurants.
Arno Schmidt has been the executive chef at New York’s The Waldorf Astoria, The Plaza and other famous hotels, where he organized numerous wine and food events. A native of Austria, he has worked in hospitality since 1946.
Robert Shack is owner of HB Wine Merchants/R.Shack Selections and of Clos Robert Winery in Sonoma, Calif. Earlier, 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 40-year-old New York Wine Tasting School; and wine consultant to restaurants and private clubs.
Peter Sichel is a fourth-generation wine grower and négociant and a leading authority on German and Bordeaux wines. He is the former chairman of H. Sichel Söhne which imported Blue Nun, former owner of Château Fourcas-Hosten in Bordeaux and author of two wine books.
Darrin Siegfried is owner of Il Gallo Giallo Wine Bar in New Paltz, N.Y., and president of the Sommelier Society of America. He has managed a number of restaurants in New York and created the Brooklyn wine shop Red, White and Bubbly.
Mary Taylor is the French wine portfolio manager for Sherbrooke Cellars and the founder of the Thoreau Wine Society. Previously, she worked in fine wines at Sotheby’s and at Acker Merrall & Condit. Her experience covers retail and distribution.
Cristian Vasquez is food and beverage director of The Westin New York Grand Central. Previously, he held the same position at the Inn of the Anasazi in Santa Fe, N.M. A graduate of Johnson & Wales University, he has worked in hotel restaurant management since 1995.