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Best wines onboard – Cellars in the sky awards presented

It is that time of the year where I get to combine two of my favourite passions. Aviation and Wine.

The annual Cellars in the Sky Awards have been announced, recognising the best business and first class wines served by airlines worldwide.

The big winner this year was Qantas, which walked away with four awards — best first class red wine, best first class fortified / sweet wine, best first class cellar, and best presented wine list.

Cathay Pacific won two awards — best business class red wine and best business class cellar. Lufthansa also bagged two awards — best business class fortified / sweet wine, and best first class sparkling wine.

Singapore Airlines which used to consistently win awards seems to have been knocked right out of the competition. India’s Jet Airways has won fourth place for the best sparkling wine in business class.

Given the economic slowdown and resultant impact on airlines has forced the industry to greater creativity and choosing lesser-known but much more interesting wines.

Judging wines from 34 airlines were five judges:

  • Charles Metcalfe, TV wine presenter and co-chairman of the International Wine Challenge
  • Joanna Simon, author, wine and food editor for House and Garden magazine and co-founder of the Wine Gang
  • Sam Harrop, Master of Wine and winemaking consultant
  • Derek Smedley, Master of Wine for more than 40 years, consultant and co-chairman of the International Wine Challenge
  • Tim Atkin, Master of Wine, wine columnist for The Observer, co-chairman of the International Wine Challenge and co-founder of the Wine Gang.

The results

Business Class

Sparkling wine

1. Delta
Piper-Heidsieck Brut, Champagne, France
Score: 18.25 out of 20

2. JOINT: Qantas, Singapore Airlines
Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve, Champagne, France
Score: 18

3. Mexicana
Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut, Champagne, France
Score: 17.75

4. JOINT: Jet Airways, LAN
Louis Roederer Brut Premier, Champagne, France
Score: 17.5

5. JOINT: Cathay, KLM
Billecart-Salmon Brut, Champagne, France
Score: 17

Red

1. Cathay Pacific
Spy Valley Pinot Noir Marlborough 2007, Marlborough, New Zealand
Score: 18.75

2. Korean Air
Tyrrell’s Rufus Stone Heathcote Shiraz 2005, Hunter Valley, Australia
Score: 18.5

3. KLM
Tempus Two Barossa Shiraz 2005, Barossa, Australia
Score: 18.25

4. LAN
Altair 2004, Alto Cachapoal Valley, Chile
Score: 18

5. Alitalia
Barone Ricasoli Castello di Brolio, Casalferro, 2005, Gaiole in Chianti, Tuscany, Italy
Score: 17.75

White

1. SAS
Tim Adams Semillon 2007, Clare Valley, Australia
Score: 18.5

2. Cathay Pacific
Moët Hennessy, Green Point Reserve Chardonnay 2005, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia
Score: 18

3. ANA
Weinguter Wegeler, Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Kabinett 2007, Mosel, Germany
Score: 17.75

4. Qantas
Peter Lehman Wines Eden Valley Riesling 2005, Barossa, Australia
Score: 17.5

5. Air New Zealand
West Brook Marlborough Riesling 2008, Marlborough, New Zealand
Score: 17.25

Fortified / sweet

1. Lufthansa
Vinhos Niepoort Late Bottled Vintage 2004, Douro, Portugal
Score: 18.5

2. Singapore Airlines
Graham’s Late Bottled Vintage Port 2003, Douro, Portugal
Score: 18

3. Air New Zealand
Dr John Forrest, Forrest Noble Marlborough Riesling 2008, Marlborough, New Zealand
Score: 17.75

4. Delta
Chambers Rosewood Vineyards, Muscat a Petit Grains, Rutherglen, Australia
Score: 17.5

5. Qantas
Baileys of Glenrowan Founder Series Liqueur Muscat, Glenrowan, Australia
Score: 17

Best business class cellar

1. Cathay Pacific
2. LAN
3. Qatar Airways
4. American Airlines
5. British Airways

First class

Sparkling

1. Lufthansa
Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Rare, Champagne, France
Score: 19

2. Qantas
Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 1999, Champagne, France
Score: 18.5

3. Qatar Airways
Laurent Perrier Grand Siècle 1996, Champagne, France
Score: 18

4. Emirates
Dom Pérignon 2000, Champagne, France
Score: 17.75

5. JOINT: ANA, Singapore Airlines
Krug Grande Cuvée Brut, Champagne, France
Score: 17.5

Red

1. Qantas
Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier 2005, Canberra, Australia
Score: 18.75

2. JOINT:

Emirates
Felton Road Pinot Noir 2008, Bannockburn, Central Otago, New Zealand

Korean Air
Château Léoville Poyferré 2004, Saint-Julien, France
Score: 18.5
[Editor’s note: Singapore Airlines used to serve this wine and it is indeed a great wine]

4. JOINT:

American Airlines
Chapoutier Coteaux Tricastin 2006, Rhône Valley, France

American Airlines
Château Lynch-Moussas 2006, Pauillac, France

British Airways
Saint Clair Pioneer Block 4 Pinot Noir 2007, Marlborough, New Zealand
Score: 18

White

1. TAM
Michel Picard Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Chalumeaux 2006, Burgundy, France
Score: 18.5

2. British Airways
Albert Bichot Meursault 2007, Burgundy, France
Score: 18.25

3. British Airways
Salomon Lindberg Reserve Gruner Veltliner 2007, Kamptal, Austria
Score: 18

4. Cathay Pacific
Wente Riva Ranch Reserve Chardonnay 2006, Livermore Valley, San Francisco, US
Score: 17.75

5. Qatar Airways
Saint Clair Pioneer Block 18 Snap Block Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Marlborough, New Zealand
Score: 17.5

Fortified / sweet

1. Qantas
Morris of Rutherglen Old Premium Liqueur Tokay, Rutherglen, Australia
Score: 18.5

2. Emirates
Château Rieussec 2003, Domaines Lafite, France
Score: 17.75

3. ANA
Taylor’s 20-Year-Old Tawny Port, Douro, Portugal
Score: 17.5

Best first class cellar

1. Qantas
2. American Airlines
3. Qatar Airways
4. British Airways
5. Cathay Pacific

OVERALL

BEST-PRESENTED WINE LIST

1. Qantas
2. Air New Zealand
3. JOINT: ANA, Qatar Airways

CONSISTENCY OF WINES ACROSS BUSINESS AND FIRST CLASS

1. Qatar Airways
2. JOINT: American Airlines, Cathay Pacific
3. Qantas
4. British Airways
5. ANA

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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