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QANTAS Wine List Overhaul – Neil Perry's Influence Sees 40% New Wines Added to the Sky

QANTAS Wine List Overhaul – Neil Perry's Influence Sees 40% New Wines Added to the Sky

By Drew Lambert

It’s the biggest indicator yet that Neil Perry’s QANTAS team of sommeliers mean business; QANTAS revealed exclusively to The Wine Wankers last week that 40% of the 270 wines chosen for the airline’s new wine list have never flown in First or Business class before.

Oenophile fliers - those who choose their airlines according to the wines being served - will no doubt be salivating at the news; exceptionally small producers - those with production runs of as little as 250 cases per wine - will now be matched with Perry’s foods in not only First Class, but even in Business.

Over the course of four days in July, 1,200 wines were tasted blind by a team of Rockpool sommeliers, headed by Sebastian Crowther, one of only two Master Sommeliers in Australia.

QANTAS is riding high after recent news it has finally turned its fortunes around. The battleground for the skies is tough, and food and wine as ‘travelling entertainment’ is seen as big business.

“We feel honoured that not one, but two of our wines have been selected by QANTAS to be served on their International Business Class flights,” said Adrian Santolin of the boutique husband and wife label, Santolin Wines.  Adrian is a typical example of one of Qantas’ newbies; only 250 cases of his Yarra Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were produced.  You’d think that with such small quantities, these wines would be a First Class only, but you’d be wrong – they are slated for Business Class.

QANTAS gets away with this by not offering a wine list in Business Class. Each flight they offer two whites and two reds. Chardonnay and a Cabernet or Shiraz are always a staple, but it’s with the other two wines the QANTAS/Rockpool somms are being allowed to spread their wings.

Curio wines such as ‘Wine Makers Daughter’ Borrodell Gewurztraminer 2013 or Jericho 2015 Adelaide Hills Tempranillo will be the alternative wine. A welcome relief for people suffering Sauv Blanc fatigue.

These smaller production wines won’t last forever, and they won’t be on all routes, instead they will last for one month on selected routes, with the entire network being catered for. This innovation in flexibility has been introduced to cater for people who fly every couple of weeks for business, where food and wine is their passion.  QANTAS also insists on changing its menus every 5-6 weeks according to seasonal produce availability.

If Australian wine isn’t your thing because you taste it every single day, QANTAS may not be your Nirvana (unless you’re happy to drink your body weight in Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2005, that is!).  You’ll be searching out a wine program that celebrates international wines. As a comparison, we spoke to Emirates, which now codeshares with Qantas on many flights out of Australia.

At the heart of Emirates’ cellar are wines from Bordeaux, accounting for almost half of the airline’s total wine portfolio. Château LafiteChâteau MargauxChâteau LatourChâteau Haut-Brion, and Château Mouton-Rothschild, are all up for grabs in First and Business. The airline currently has over 1.2 million bottles of wines ageing in its cellar in Burgundy. Some of these vintages will only be ready for consumption in a decade’s time.

While QANTAS has the exceptional Taittinger Comtes de Champagne, Emirates is not only serving Dom Pérignon Vintage Rosé 2003 in First Class, it has now introduced a Champagne pairing menu of six canapés, which complements the revered Champagne (think cured duck with saffron poached peach; walnut baguette with persian feta cheese, fresh fig, and truffle infused honey, and, wild smoked salmon and lemon and cumin cream cheese on norlander bread).

On any given day, over 60 different wines, Champagnes and ports, sourced from 11 countries, are served onboard Emirates to passengers in all classes. It too addresses palate fatigue by offering passengers smaller parcels of wine.

“We could have taken the easy way out – just do the maths for how many bottles we’d need in each cabin class over a year, then put it up for tender. But with the scale of our operations, this would limit our choices as not many producers can offer the quantities we’d need, at the quality standards that we’d want,” said Sir Tim Clark, President Emirates Airline.

The airline even allows you to check the wines on your flight prior to boarding. Check out their app here.

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