THIRSTY WORK; Sam Wylie-Harris Boards a BA Boeing 777 Bound for New York to Taste Test First Class Wines at Altitude

Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales), June 5, 2011 | Go to article overview

THIRSTY WORK; Sam Wylie-Harris Boards a BA Boeing 777 Bound for New York to Taste Test First Class Wines at Altitude


Some golden rules are meant to be broken, especially when you're sitting in the front of a plane. The old adage: "Don't drink when you fly, and try to move around the cabin," is for the fairies when you're a globetrotter brandishing a First class ticket.

The Holy Grail for premium travellers, First signals luxury, comfort and space in equal measure, plus your very own cellar in the sky. Tasty four-course meals morph into gourmet delights when they're washed down with vintage champagne, and a stellar wine list to pour over.

But do these wines drink as well in the skies as they do on the ground? Will a French merlot lose its mojo, or a fine white Burgundy heighten its seductive appeal at 30,000 feet? Ahead of Taste of London (June 16-19), the foodie festival showcasing 40 top-notch restaurants and British Airways 'Height Cuisine' - an area designed to show how the senses can be affected at altitude onboard an aircraft - I was invited to take part in a 'super taster' experiment.

My passport to pleasure didn't include the new First menu, which will appear onboard flights from this month, but I can wax lyrical about the fruits of my journey - and introduce armchair travellers to some excellent wines from the skies.

Bubbles fare brilliantly in the air, and Taittinger Brut Millesime 2004 (pounds 45.75, Oddbins) vintage champagne is BA's trophy serve. Fragrant and complex with a full mousse and rich brioche flavours, it still showed well and passed the tipple test at 30,000 feet.

BA's fine white Burgundy, Meursault Vieilles Vignes 2008, Domaine Roux Pere et Fils (pounds 27.99, www.bibendum-wine.co.uk) was one of my favourites at ground level, and a perfect partner to my in-flight meal of tian of Cornish crab, followed by seared sea bass. A concentrated and rich chardonnay with hallmark buttery nuances, good balance and structure, I felt the acidity became more pronounced several hours into the flight.

The second French offering, Savennieres Clos de Coulaine 2008, Domaine Pierre-Bise, Loire (pounds 15, www.bibendum-wine.co.uk) is a more voluptuous white made from 100% chenin blanc. Medium-sweet and a great food wine with roast pork, the apple orchard fruit notes were far sweeter in the air. …

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