Postcard from the Sky

Published in Sommelier India, Issue3, 2023

Airline Wines

These days almost all airlines offer free wine on their flights — often of indifferent quality, sometimes drinkable, sometimes not. Of course, it also depends on which class one is flying. On a recent trip, after some gruelling months in India, I decided to upgrade my return to Europe on business class. And was it worth it! Lying flat – what a difference it makes!

In addition – unexpectedly – was the discovery of an amazing red wine. But let’s start at the beginning. The Champagne served as soon as you board was Jean de la Fontaine Brut – 70% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Meunier. Using the traditional method, the wine was matured for three to four years. It had an intense aroma of baked apples, pears, almonds and flowers. Marvellous! With the starter I went for a reliable Sauvignon Blanc , Misty Wind from the Marlborough region of New Zealand, famous for this varietal. Tropical fruit aromas, passion fruit, grapefruit, kiwi, fresh herbs and nettles. What better choice to accompany the marinated salmon!

Then came the options for the main course – wine, not food! Definitely a red I thought, as I perused the offerings. A Primitivo from Puglia – been there, done that. A blend from Lodi, California – know what to expect. But then came a Pinot Noir from Slovenia which piqued my interest. This wine, unknown to me, was the one to try. And did I hit gold!


Produced in a family vineyard, the Puklavec Estate Selection Pinot Noir, comes from the northeastern region of Podravje, known for its microclimate and ideal conditions for viticulture. From the first twirl of the glass, breathing in the deep aroma, you knew there was something special to come. 


Clearly red fruit – strawberries, red currants and plums – with spice and floral notes. Smooth on the palate, slightly acidic with a moderate amount of soft tannins, it was the first time that I asked for a second glass on a flight! Meanwhile, I thought I’d check out the effect that travel, including air travel has on wines, and whether they suffer in any way through ‘travel shock’ as some call it. An article in Decanter magazine (August 26, 2019) by, Danish Master of Wine Jonas Tofterup who, after extensive research concluded that, “The sensory panel tasting found no significant differences between the samples that had travelled and those that had not moved at all.” So my Pinot Noir was as good as it gets and true to form.


The challenge now is to find Slovenian wines in a European capital, or to travel to Slovenia itself. Hmm…maybe I just need to get back to Delhi on the same airline, travel business class, and relish the unforgettable Pinot Noir once more! Why not, wine is as good a criteria as any to select an airline for one’s next trip.