The Playbook For The Modern Man

Best Business & First Class Airlines For Wine Revealed

An unlikely winner takes gold.

If economy is Guantanamo, business is Switzerland’s Champ-Dollon – the sort of place the Jordan Belforts of the world end up.

Imprisoned but comfy.

As more travellers hop on the points train, pointy end travel is more accessible. With that comes an obsession with pillow plumping, edamame, ergonomics and wine.

Really good wine.

Enter: the Business Traveller Cellars in the Sky 2019 Awards, the results of which were announced in London this week.

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The annual awards, which recognise “the best business and first class wines served by airlines around the world,” were presented on Monday evening at The Langham hotel in London by Charles Metcalfe, co-chairman of the International Wine Challenge.

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Malaysia Airlines took Gold for Best Overall Cellar.

Meanwhile, Qantas won the Best First Class Cellar category, with Cathay Pacific awarded Silver, and All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Singapore Airlines awarded joint Bronze.

Malaysia Airlines got Gold for Best Business Class Cellar, with Qatar Airways and Air New Zealand jointly taking Silver, and Aer Lingus taking Bronze.

Business Traveller magazine’s Cellars in the Sky Awards has been running since 1985.

In 2019, 35 airlines entered, with the judges – masters of wine Sarah Abbott, Tim Atkin and Peter McCombie, journalist and wine writer Kathryn McWhirter and head judge Charles Metcalfe – blind tasting “more than 250 bottles” (tough job) to find the winners.

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As for vin rouge, Business Traveller reports, “ANA won Best First Class Red (for its Domaine David Duband, Nuit-Saint-Georges Les Pruliers 1er cru 2017, Burgundy, France), while Air New Zealand won Best Business Class Red (Brennan B2, 2016, Queenstown, Central Otago, New Zealand).

As for vino blanco, “Qantas won Best First Class White (Shaw and Smith Lenswood Vineyard Chardonnay 2017, Adelaide Hills, Australia), with Best Business Class White going to another Australian wine, this time served by ANA (Stella Bella Skuttlebutt Sauvignon Semillon 2018, Forest Grove, Margaret River, Australia).”

This year’s awards saw the introduction of a rosé category, with Best First Class Rosé going to American Airlines (Château Gassier Le Pas du Moine Côtes de Provence Rosé 2018, Sainte-Victoire, France). Best Business Class Rosé was meanwhile awarded to Air New Zealand (Two Rivers Isle of Beauty Rosé 2018, Southern Valleys, Marlborough, New Zealand).

In the champagne chariot race, Cathay Dragon took Gold for Best First Class Sparkling (Champagne Rare Millesimé 2002, Piper-Heidsieck, France), while Malaysia Airlines took the top spot for Best Business Class Sparkling (Champagne Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2007, France).

For those with a sweet tooth, Emirates took Gold medals in both Best First Class Fortified/Dessert (Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2013, South Africa) and Best Business Class Fortified/Dessert (Dow’s Colheita Port 1992, Douro Valley, Portugal).

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Finally, Oneworld was named Best Airline Alliance, while Singapore Airlines was judged to have both the Best-Presented First Class Wine List and Best-Presented Business Class Wine List.

Interested in the process? Blind tastings took place in November 2019 at London’s Amba Hotel Grosvenor in Victoria, Business Traveller says.

“The judges paired up and tasted half of the entries for each flight. Once they had tasted them independently, they convened in their pairs and compared findings, scoring the wines out of 100. Scores were then averaged to get a fair mark.”

“Team A then picked their favourite wines of the flight and put them up against Team B’s selection, with the quartet then re-tasting the final selection and awarding Gold, Silver, Bronze and sometimes Highly Commended.”

“By the time we get to the final top winners, they’re bloody good wines and they’ve been through the mill to get there,” head judge Charles Metcalfe commented.

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