Wine flights

Just what is available for wine lovers in the sky these days with BA?

Over the last few years I have become a pretty local BA customer. I often ask myself why, as the overall quality does fall short of many airlines. But there is something about BA that makes me feel safe and comfortable and using them regularly on jaunts back to the UK, coupled with the occasional long haul flight, does have its perks, especially when it comes to upgrades using air miles. I’m in the far east this week so, in the absence of a bottle of Portuguese wine to write about, I decided to have a good look at what wines were on offer when flying Club Class from Faro via London to Kuala Lumpur a few days ago.

I would never actually pay to fly in the sad excuse for a business class cabin that BA offers on its short haul routes. The leg room is no better than on an easyJet flight and when buying a ticket I would much rather travel in an economy emergency exit seat. But I had a Club Class ticket all the way through on this trip and found myself cramped into the seat (the only difference to economy is that the seat in the middle is blocked off) hoping at least for a decent glass of wine. Sadly however, the wine service is no better from what I could see than what is offered in economy. I opted for a beer.

Next stop was the Business Class lounge at Heathrow T5 and here things get a little more interesting. There was a choice of six reds and six whites, none of these were premium wines by any standards but, amongst the obligatory New World supermarket standard varietals, there were Côtes du Rhône and Bordeaux whites. Amongst the reds was a decent 2013 Châteauneuf Du Pape and, most interestingly, a nice Graves Bordeaux 2012. Things were looking up …

Once onboard, the choice was more limited but well chosen to appeal to most tastes. There was a Cuvée Prestige White Burgundy, a classy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, a nice, very decent Bordeaux and a rich, juicy Australian Shiraz. The latter, not a wine I would normally enjoy, works well at altitude when our taste buds are, of course, impaired. The standard of the wines offered in flight is clearly a notch above what is available in the lounge.

But what impressed me most on this flight was the choice of three NV Champagnes that were all beyond the mainstream: Henriot Brut Souverain, Castelnau Brut Rosé and, most impressively, Castelnau Brut Réserve, which has won numerous awards for best non vintage Champagne. This is a very serious bubbles and beyond what I would expect in a Business Class cabin, especially on BA.

In the other cabins, economy and premium economy both share the same wine selection which, although slightly better than on the short haul flights, is still rather disappointing.

In First Class however, BA are clearly pushing the boat out with vintage Champagnes, Premier Crus and Grade Crus alongside some top draw New World wines. But then with fares running at around double the price of a business class ticket this is to be expected!

By Patrick Stuart
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