A top sommelier rates the airlines with the best wine lists

Emirates airlines economy flight
Emirates has the best wine list of the top airlines. Julie Zeveloff/Business Insider

What makes a good flight varies by traveller — for some it’s the food, for others leg room, and others again will prioritise duration.

But for a growing number of flyers, it’s all about the wine (CNN dubs them “oeno-flyers”).

We asked a sommelier to rate the wine lists on the 10 top international airlines. Jessica Brown, wine director at The Breslin Bar & Dining Room and The John Dory Oyster Bar in New York, took a look at each airline’s wine lists and ranked the top five airlines based on diversity, breadth, and quality of the wines. She also shared the best bottles to get on each.

Keep in mind that wine lists vary by class as well as route, and some airlines, like Qantas, switch up their wine lists so often they don’t even keep a list.

Here are the top top 5 airlines for wine, according to Brown, and the best wines to order on each:

1. Emirates

  • Dom Perignon 2004
  • Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe 2011
  • Y de Yquem 2012

“I have no idea how much a first class ticket on Emirates costs, but you could probably make that flight worth it by drinking a bunch of stuff off that list, and it would be less expensive than going into a restaurant and buying those bottles,” Brown says.

“This was the wine list with the most wines that you would see on lists that are really respected, those I would see on wine programs in New York City, or that I would have on my list. I would have thought that airline wine lists would really have to defer to brands that are much more mass produced; I would imagine just for the quantity that they have to deal with that would be an issue, and that’s what I most commonly see on airline wine lists — just pretty commercial mass produced and mass marketed brands. So this has the most wines on it that were smaller production, or more unique and classic.”

2. Qatar Airways

  • Krug Brut Grand Cuvee Champagne
  • Lanson Brut 1999 Champagne

“It has some wines that are less well regarded and more mainstream, but still old world in style, and from classic wine regions that are well respected. Neither of these had a lot of new world wine on them, meaning wine coming from Australia, South America, Latin America, South Africa, even California.”

3. Thai Airways

  • Pascal Jolivet Pouilly Fume 2013

“Again this list is focused on classic and well-known regions. I picked it for the breadth of their selection, as well as the quality and how respected the brands are.”

4. Korean Air

  • PJ Belle Epoque Blanc de Blanc 2002

“Korean, over wines on Virgin or Air New Zealand, focused on old world regions, classic regions and classic styles of wine, as opposed to new world styles and more mass produced brands. There are some mass produced brands on this list, but it has classic regions like Chablis, and Belle Epoque champagne.”

5. Singapore Airlines

  • Dom Perignon
  • Krug

“This was one of the few lists that really kind of had a focus on Burgundy, which is I think is most popular right now for red wine. It is the most popular, and most heralded and expensive region currently on the market.”

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