Converted from paper version of the Broad Ripple Gazette (v07n01)
The Wine Scene - by Jill A. Ditmire
posted: Jan. 08, 2010
Both business and pleasure has put me on an airplane on several occasions the last few weeks. So it's no wonder this article from USA Today caught my eye...
The world's airlines annually buy about 4.3 million gallons of wine, and some spend at least $15 million on wine each year, the airlines and wine experts estimate. Some airlines pour wine that retails for $50 to $220 a bottle. And some employ consultants or sommeliers and require flight attendants to take courses to improve their wine knowledge.
"Service cutbacks and the recession have not affected airlines' wine-buying policies," says Lori Lynne Brundick, president of Intervine, an airline wine supplier in Napa, Calif. "They're buying quality wines and increasing the diversity of their wine lists."
Wine and spirits have long been important to airlines, which have offered alcoholic beverages to fliers since the 1930s, according to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. But the quality hasn't always been good.
"About 25 years ago, it was fair to say that airlines in general were seen by suppliers as a dumping ground for excess stocks and poor vintages," says Andrew Sparrow, a former British Airways wine buyer.
Today, Sparrow says, "Most full-service airlines take their wine selection very seriously and have a well-thought-out selection process that often involves outside consultants."
Jancis Robinson has been British Airways' wine consultant since 1995. She says, "Airlines tend to fall into two groups: those that really care about the quality of wine they offer and go to great lengths to maximize it, and those that just shrug their shoulders and offer something liquid and alcoholic."
Wine Writer Dan Berger (www.vintageexperiences.com) ranked U.S. airlines United and American as the best when it comes to wine lists in premium classes on international flights. U.S. airlines with the least interesting lists according to Berger: Air Tran and Southwest.
As for my OWN airline wine encounters, well as of late I have NOT imbibed on board. (Might be because I most recently have flown Southwest and Air Tran!) I will say my travels to Europe usually offer better bottles and most of the time the juice is FREE. Most domestic airlines charge you at least $4 for a "glass" of wine. I guess I would rather save that money to buy a bottle at my destination. (Or in my case most recently, I needed the $4 to pay the Richmond Bridge Toll while driving from the Oakland airport to Cloverdale, California en route to judge the 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. I am there as I write this so you will get the "winners and losers" report in my next column.)
I have had some delightful "destination bottles" as of late. Travels to southern Florida means the chance to shop at Publix Grocery stores. This southern supermarket chain offers an amazing array of wine from around the world-- very good wine at very affordable prices. Some of my favorites: 2007 Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc, 2007 Santa Rita 120 Sauvignon Blanc, 2006 Augey White Bordeaux,and South Africa's Herding Cats Chenin Blanc.
NEW YEAR NEW WINES?
Be ready for more great values in the wine world in 2010. Wines from Italy, Germany and France are trending down in price and up in quality. And expect more great values from Spain, Argentina and up and coming South Africa where more wine lovers are enjoying the pinotage grape for red wine and chenin blanc for whites.
Jill A. Ditmire is an Omnimedia wine specialist, AWS certified wine judge, freelance broadcast journalist and 20+ year home owner in the Warfleigh neighborhood of Broad Ripple. Send your questions and comments to Jill at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also on INSTAGRAM @jaditmire