The right glass of wine can make a huge difference on a meal. It can salvage a subpar meal or even make a good meal great.
That’s especially important when it comes to meals on a plane at 40,000 feet where the low air pressure and dry atmosphere can wreak havoc on your taste buds.
Every year, Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson is tasked with picking the selection of wines that will be served on board Delta Air Lines’ flights.
In August, Robinson spoke with Business Insider about the art of wine selection on the ground and in the air.
Robinson, a former analyst with Morgan Stanley, spent four days at Delta’s global headquarters in Atlanta whittling down a field of roughly 1,400 bottles of wine to just 120 finalists.
Of these finalists, about 60 will make it on board Delta’s flights next year, Robinson told us in an interview.
However, the master sommelier keyed in on three things people can do to improve their wine drinking experience on the ground and in the air.
According to Robinson, who is one of just 23 female Master Sommeliers in the world, red wines are being served at too warm a temperature. This is because most people operate under the axiom that red wines should be served at room temperature. But at more than 70 degrees Fahrenheit, this is no longer the case.
“Room temperature might have been appropriate when people were in a cottage or a castle,” she said. “But these days room temperature is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit and that’s too warm.”
Robinson believes that both reds and whites are at their best when slightly chilled.
Watch out for acidity
This one is important when picking a wine for your next flight.
“Lower air pressure depletes your ability to smell flavour while dryness prevents you from perceiving flavour and texture,” Robinson said.
While it’s good to aim for a wine with good flavour, it’s important to avoid those that are too tangy and too heavy, she added. This is because, at altitude, wines with high acidity tend to taste way too sour to enjoy.
Instead, Robinson recommends opting for wines that are more tender on the palate.
It’s the prep not the protein
Another common misconception held by most wine drinkers is that red wines are paired with red meat while white wines are paired with white meat.
According to Robinson, the constitution of the dish is more important than the protein served. In fact, the preparation process, the sauce, and the bed on which the protein is served should all be taken into consideration. For instance, a zesty lemon butter chicken is best served with a crisp white wine, but if that chicken dish features a heavy bed of legumes or mushrooms, then it’s better had with a red wine. The same goes for fish.
In fact, the Master Sommelier offers Delta’s cabin crew a training video called “It’s the prep not the protein”.